The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of FreightWaves or its affiliates.

The armchair quarterbacking on Yantian continues and while the commentary is interesting, the only hard fact in this hot mess is drayage, the number of containers stacked up at the ports and the processing times at port. 

Trade movement is basic common sense. You need people. If there are stringent quarantine measures and few people working, then trade will move at a snail’s pace. This is supported by the latest dataset pulled from MarineTraffic.

Processing out of the Port of Yantian ticked up yet again. Another day, another increase in delay. This means there is no significant increase of people working at the port to speed the process up. It also shows the significant magnitude of the lockdowns in the surrounding area. There are currently 27 cargo vessels at anchor at Yantian.

“Cargo vessels at the Yantian port are waiting longer to process,” said Fotini Tseroni, spokeswoman for MarineTraffic. “The median time at the Chinese port for containerships two weeks ago was 1.2 days. Today this has increased to over 3.3 days.”

(Chart from

SONAR data for the Port of Yantian shows the tremendous number of TEUs that arrive into U.S. ports weekly. The largest-named consignee is TV maker TTE Technologies. Other big brands of note are Tesla, Williams-Sonoma, QVC, JoAnn Fabrics and Hasbro.


Both charts are the landed U.S. import shipment (1 bill of lading = 1 shipment) volumes that have been cleared and reported by U.S. Customs.

 (To learn more about FreightWaves SONAR, click here.)

In an effort to keep trade flowing, all the major carriers have canceled sailings to Yantian. While this diversion is useful in avoiding that congestion, it has created a whole new chain of bottlenecks. 

MarineTraffic data shows the ports of Hong Kong and Nansha are overflowing with vessels. There are 58 cargo vessels at anchor with Hong Kong as their final destination and 25 cargo vessels at anchor at Nansha, which according to SONAR data shows Electrolux Home Products as the main branded consignee. The port of Shekou has 14 cargo vessels at anchor.

“This is a result of the diversion and the inability of these ports to process because of the lack of equipment and capacity,” said Jon Monroe of Monroe Consulting. “The congestion at Yantian and the ripple effects on the alternate port destinations have snarled trade worse than the Suez blockage. 

“Right now we are telling customers there is no plan B to this situation.”


These charts represent the total TEU volumes calculated from ocean container bookings being made in Yantian and Nansha, with the white dotted line representing the next 7 days of confirmed volumes that are expected to depart from their respective origins bound for U.S. ports. It appears that Nansha is going to hit an all-time high for volumes in the next 7 days. — FreightWaves Market Expert Henry Byers

 (To learn more about FreightWaves SONAR, click here.)

Kim Bradley, COO and CFO of the fashion footwear company Highline United, tells American Shipper she is concerned about information she’s receiving from her Chinese shippers in terms of the number of cases versus the delays and the chaos she is experiencing in the movement of her containers.

“It doesn’t add up,” she said. “I had a call with our shippers last night and when I asked them how severe the [COVID-19] outbreak was, they told me it was just a few cases. It doesn’t make sense. The last two weeks have been a nightmare in trying to move containers. Truckers are barred from going into Nansha, Hong Kong has restrictions. This does not correlate with a ‘few cases.’ There is not enough transparency on what is going on. We need accurate information so we can decide if we need to move certain products by air.”