PVG quarantines pile pressure on air cargo supply chains

By Damian Brett

Credit: Shutterstock

An increasing number of Covid cases at Shanghai Pudong International Airport are piling on extra pressure to strained airfreight operations from China, according to forwarders.

Seko Logistics reports that handler PACTL suspended cargo operations on Friday after two members of staff tested positive for Covid. This has resulted in the cancellation of several freighter flights.

Air Cargo News has contacted PACTL for an update, but it has so far not reported any suspension of operations on its website.

The impact of this suspension will see a serious backlog in PVG in the coming days,” Seko said on Friday. “Airlines are diverting flights to airports to the south or west of China. [Polar Air Cargo] and [Qatar Airways] are looking to divert flights to other airports such as [Shenzhen], [Guangzhou] or [Zhengzhou].

Other airlines are diverting their flights to [Hong Kong] and other airports. Some forwarders are considering alternative export methods such as ferry-air via Korea and sea-air via [Singapore] or [Dubai International].”

The airfreight arm of shipping giant Maersk reported on August 20 that ramp operations are also affected.

“Today, due to new Covid-19 cases, authorities have decided to suspend a large portion of ramp operations (including aircraft unloading/loading) until further notice.

“In response [to the suspension], many airlines have announced their suspension of flights to Pudong Airport (PVG). Several flights on the ground in Pudong Airport are now pending further instructions if they may proceed for unloading/loading their planned payload,” Maersk Airfreight said.

“We do foresee delays and longer transit times are likely to occur. We will continue to work closely with you to minimise the impact to your supply chain and keep you informed as the situation develops.”

US forwarder CH Robinson added: “Indications are the positive case occurred at one of the ground handler facilities.”

“The impact of the flight cancellations will be significant. Shanghai Pudong is the largest cargo airport in China and CH Robinson will continue to seek alternative routings.”

While many freighter flights have been cancelled from the airport over recent days, FlightRadar 24 shows that freighter flights from Nippon Cargo Airlines, ANA, Kalitta Air, FedEx and SF Express have departed.

In an update from Air Cargo News sister title DVZ, Oliver Link reports that Lufthansa Cargo, Qatar Airways Cargo, AirBridgeCargo, Etihad Cargo, American Airlines Cargo have all cancelled flights from the airport over recent days.

Cargolux continues to fly to the airport on a reduced schedule, the report added. Korean Air said it was unaffected.

Last week, Air Cargo News reported that airfreight operations from China were coming under pressure as a spike in Covid cases was affecting airport operations.

Shanghai Pudong was already one of the most affected airports with ground handling staff working for seven days, quarantining at a hotel for seven days and then quarantining at home for seven days. Some reports suggest this had resulted in cargo workers resigning from their positions.

In an update last week, Flexport said: “Due to the recent wave of Covid in mainland China, stringent control measures have been implemented at PVG, resulting in a lack of manpower and increased turnaround times for both inbound and outbound cargo.

“Select carriers have already cancelled some freighter capacity and many flights will likely have severe delays. Rates are expected to increase should restrictions continue.”

The lockdowns had been causing rates to increase over recent weeks.

Freightos market data shows air cargo rates from Asia to the US and Europe have climbed from 20% to as much as 40% so far in August, with disruptions expected to “keep pushing prices higher”. 

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