China’s Crippling Air Cargo Congestion

By Chris Connell :: August 20, 2021

Delta variant creating workforce shortages, congestion in China’s air cargo sector.

China has been dealing with several notable outbreaks of COVID in sea and air operations over the summer. Yantian was shut down, and output crimped for weeks. Ningbo’s Meishan terminal just partially reopened after a positive case, with full operations not expected until September 1st. 

The air cargo industry is now feeling the pressure of drastic and potentially draconian quarantine measures, which portend widespread closures at major airports like Shanghai.

FreightWaves on August 13th reported, “The most current data from logistics providers and risk intelligence analysts shows that 531 flights, or 43% of the daily total, were canceled from Beijing and that airlines scrubbed 408 flights, a third of the daily total, at Shanghai Pudong International Airport, as of Aug. 6. Two-thirds of the flights were canceled in Xiamen. And Sunan Shuofang International Airport, which serves the cities of Wuxi and Suzhou in southern Jiangsu province, is not accepting import cargo.”

For customers of Shanghai Pudong Airport, the concern lies with a cluster of positive tests at the airport’s primary ground handler, Shanghai International Airport Services.

The Loadstar on August 20th reported that the company sent all employees for testing or quarantine, according to information provided by local forwarders. The ground handlers provide services from refueling to loading/unloading, aircraft cleaning, maintenance, and more, making airlines highly reliant upon their availability to service all parts of inbound and outbound aircraft.

Numerous cancellations are expected to continue over the August 21 / 22 weekend and into the following week.

Everstream Analytics, a supply chain risk monitoring company, reported delays at upwards of fifteen Chinese airports. Quoted in Air Cargo News, Everstream said, “The most current data from logistics providers and risk intelligence analysts shows that 531 flights, or 43% of the daily total, were canceled from Beijing and that airlines scrubbed 408 flights, a third of the daily total, at Shanghai Pudong International Airport, as of Aug. 6. Two-thirds of the flights were canceled in Xiamen. And Sunan Shuofang International Airport, which serves the cities of Wuxi and Suzhou in southern Jiangsu province, is not accepting import cargo.”

Another forwarder quoted in that same article said that Shanghai Airport employees are currently working a 21-day rotation of seven days working, seven days quarantining in hotels, and seven days quarantining at home.

From our perspective at CFI, we have been focused through the pandemic on securing space to ensure minimum delays in transit from the time our customers catch, harvest, or process their cargo for export. We have now added the additional layer of monitoring the conditions at the destination that both impinge outbound capacity from the US to China and potentially impact timely handling and delivery adversely.

All CFI offices monitor China, and we recommend that you speak with your CFI representative when preparing to book a shipment to China. We can then best advise the most current information about flights, airport handling delays, or conditions affecting the transport of your perishable cargo.