Shanghai is gradually returning to normal life, and port operations appear to be approaching normal levels. Many fear, however, that this could have knock-on effects on global supply chains, with ports in North America and Europe likely to be challenged by a new surge in throughput.
Congestion at the Shanghai port has almost returned to normal, and in an analysis of port performance through June 1, it said this was the first day Shanghai eased restrictions. Wait times for container ships, tankers and bulk carriers have more than halved compared to their peak at the end of April. The average wait time increased to 66 hours in late April and is now down to 28 hours, just one hour more than the upper end of the range seen this time of year for each of the past three years.
The decline was partly due to lower throughput at ports during the two-month lockdown. Compared to May 2021, the number of port calls made by container ships in Shanghai dropped 16% to 1,062 in May from 1,263 in May 2022. Despite the decline in vessel numbers, wait times specifically for container ships are still slightly above historical levels.
The easing of restrictions also appears to have had a positive impact on truck availability and the ability to deliver containers to ports. Traffic into the city is improving and trucking shortages are tapering off, meaning reopened factories will be able to move exports through freight forwarders to ports.
With freight capacity returning to normal, we expect congestion to intensify significantly in June as factories run out of raw materials and need to insert a large number of empty containers into supply chains in the Shanghai area to cope with further increased demand as the peak season approaches.