CMA CGM restricts bookings to South China through January

French liner CMA CGM has told customers it will restrict bookings for shipments due to arrive at ports in southern China in early 2023, due to a suspension of service by feeder and barge operators through January.

South China and Hong Kong feeder operators have announced temporary service suspensions throughout next month, “due to Covid-19 quarantine requirements for ship crews” prior to Chinese New Year, CMA CGM (India) noted in an advisory.

“In light of this situation, CMA CGM will be limiting routings for cargo bound to South China ports.”

It said the restriction would apply to cargo bound for some 30 destinations, including three in Fujian province, on sailings calling at Hong Kong, Yantian, Nansha and Shekou, in January.

However, the carrier has some exceptions for transhipment via Xiamen, Hong Kong, Nansha and Shekou for “dry cargo” only, with additional feeder surcharges to be settled externally.

The carrier also warned it would be penalising consignees with transhipment cargo idling more than 14 days at Hong Kong, Nansha, Shekou, Yantian and Xiamen.

According to the Marseille-based company, normal services are expected to resume in early February, subject to further updates from feeder operators.

The Loadstar was unable to confirm this service disruption with other carriers.

Beijing’s strict Covid-19 policies recently sparked widespread protests across the country, forcing the government to reconsider the measures. The renewed pandemic unrest has taken a toll on an already weakening demand outlook, leaving carriers with no other option but to play to the market forces, in terms of pricing.

Intra-Asia rates out of India have cooled significantly – for example, now hovering at about $500 per 20ft box and $750 per 40ft box from West India (Nhava Sheva/Mundra) to South China (Yantian), market sources told The Loadstar.

“The stabilisation of freight rates was always expected, as the rates during the pandemic were unrealistic,” said Sunil Vaswani, executive director of the Container Shipping Lines Association. “The speed at which the rates dropped is what was unexpected.”