Coronavirus disrupts global container shipping trade

The deadly virus is throwing the global container shipping trade out of sync, with lines rerouting cargoes and reducing calls to Chinese ports, setting the scene for months of delivery delays ahead according to industry sources.

The virus, which was first reported in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province, has shut down many cities and factories in China and disrupted global air travel.

China is a vital link to the container sector, transporting everything from fresh food to phones and designer clothes as well as industrial parts.

Top container lines Maersk, MSC and CMA CGM have reduced calls to China, known as blank sailings, the companies revealed in recent days.

Exports of goods from China have already been hit, with broader repercussions.

Disruptions to sea cargo flows have compounded an already pressured situation for shipping lines as they struggle with weaker markets and higher costs from new International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations on low sulphur fuel.

Shipping and trade sources say regular schedules are also being affected by truck and port workers in China stuck at home or away from their places of work.