Vessels Arrive at Top China Ports with Shorter Delays in 2019

Oct. 30, 2019

 |  Insights

Port performance improves for inbound vessels at Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Ningbo-Zhoushan


China Opens Its Market to Expand Import Trade

Key Takeaways for Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Ningbo-Zhoushan Ports

  • Arrival delays have been much shorter in 2019 than in 2018
  • Shenzhen had the shortest arrival delays compared to the other two ports
  • Ningbo-Zhoushan experienced a spike in delays over the last three years in April, likely due to dense fog

China will host its second annual China International Import Expo (CIIE) at the Shanghai National Convention and Exhibition Center on November 5 - 10, 2019. The theme of the conference this year is “New Era, Shared Future,” supporting the country’s international trade initiative to actively open up its market to the world. Last year, over 800,000 people attended the import trade conference from around the globe.

China is the second largest importer in the world, importing over 1.84 trillion U.S. dollars of goods in 2018. In 2018, the top 5 China import partners by import value were the European Union, ASEAN, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. While many of China’s top 10 imports by value include bulk and specialized freight, they also include commodities that are shipped by containerized freight such as integrated circuits, phone system devices, soybeans, and liquid crystal, laser, and optical tools.


Ports Play a Key Role in Trade Flows

As companies increase containerized shipments to China, it is critical that China’s port infrastructure smoothly handle incoming vessels to facilitate trade flows. Port congestion and delayed vessels can cause downstream impacts on cargo reaching its final destination in China. Knowing average delay times and trends in delays can help shippers plan and help carriers and terminals optimize their operations to improve the flow of cargo.


Import-Focused Study Spanned 29 Terminals at 3 China Ports

We conducted a study leveraging CargoSmart’s Global Vessel Voyage Monitoring Center to analyze the number of ocean container vessel arrivals and the extent of vessel arrival delays at the top 3 China ports over the past three years. 

We reviewed 27 ocean container carriers’ published schedules that covered 29 container terminals at the ports of Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Ningbo-Zhoushan for the analysis. We then compared vessels’ estimated times of arrival (ETAs) from the sailing schedules with actual times of arrival detected through the Automatic Identification System (AIS).


Majority of Vessels Were Delayed Under 24 Hours

First, we reviewed the overall number of vessel arrivals and the extent of vessel arrival delays at the three ports from January through September 2019. Shanghai had the most vessel arrivals with 13,647 vessels visiting the port in our study, followed by Shenzhen with 12,007, and Ningbo-Zhoushan with 6,639. Shenzhen’s vessel arrival numbers are high compared to Ningbo-Zhoushan in part due to Shenzhen handling a large number of feeder vessels for domestic freight.

Next, we reviewed the vessels by the extent of their delays. Vessels that are more than a day late can impact arrival planning for shippers, consignees, and logistics service providers. If you know about delays in advance, you can manage the changes and reschedule truckers that pick up cargo, labor at warehouses, and production at factories. If you are not aware of the delays in advance, each day of delay can add significant costs to supply chains. 

Overall, we found that the majority of delays at the three ports were delayed under 24 hours from the original ETA. This was the case for 61% of vessel arrivals at Shanghai, 76% of the vessel arrivals at Shenzhen, and 63% of the vessel arrivals at Ningbo-Zhoushan.


Shenzhen Had Most Vessel Arrivals On-Time and Delayed Under 12 Hours

For the first nine months of 2019, 39% of the vessels visiting Shanghai arrived more than a day after its original ETA. 18% of its vessels arrived between 12 and 24 hours after their original ETAs. And, 43% arrived early or under 12 hours delayed from their original ETAs. Shanghai had the highest percentage of lengthy vessel delays and the smallest percentage of short or not delayed vessel arrivals.

Shenzhen had the greatest percentage of early or under 12 hours delayed vessel arrivals among the three ports for the first nine months of 2019. It had the lowest percentage of vessels among the ports of delays more than a day late.

Ningbo-Zhoushan, the port with the fewest vessel arrivals among the three ports, had a similar performance as Shanghai. 45% of vessel arrivals arrived early or fewer than 12 hours delayed from the original ETA. And, 37% of vessels arrived more than a day late.


Arrival Delays Have Been Significantly Shorter in 2019 Than in 2018

Next, we reviewed vessel arrival delay trends at the three ports over the past three years. We found that at all three ports, the monthly average vessel arrival delays were shorter in the first nine months of 2019 than they were in 2018 and 2017. Comparing the monthly average for each year (January through December for 2017 and 2018, and January through September for 2019), we found that on average, delays were nine hours shorter this year compared to last year in Shanghai, five hours shorter this year compared to last year in Shenzhen, and eight hours shorter this year compared to last year in Ningbo-Zhoushan. Each port has experienced improved performance this year.


Monthly Average Delay Has Hovered Around One Day in Shanghai in 2019

From January through July 2019, the monthly average vessel arrival delay was under 24 hours in Shanghai. In August and September it increased to 27 hours. 

One common reason for port congestion and vessel arrival delays in Shanghai is the dense fog that descends upon the port each year in April and May. However, in 2019, we did not see a peak or the prolonged delays at the port in April in May as we saw in 2017 and 2018. 


Shenzhen Experienced Delay Peaks in January, April, and August

The pattern of vessel arrival delays at Shenzhen in the first nine months of 2019 have mirrored the delays at the port in 2017. While the monthly average delays are shorter overall in 2019 compared to the two prior years, Shenzhen has experienced peaks in delays in the months of January, April, and August. The monthly average arrival delay has remained under 19 hours in Shenzhen.


Ningbo-Zhoushan Had Increased Delays in April Over Last 3 Years

Ningbo-Zhoushan, located about 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of Shanghai, experienced a jump in vessel arrival delays from March to April over the past three years, possibly due to the fog that occurs in April. Ningbo-Zhoushan experienced its longest delays of the year, through September, in April of 2019. Ningbo-Zhoushan had an overall average monthly delay of 23 hours for the first nine months of 2019, similar to Shanghai. Its monthly average delay ranged from 20 to 29 hours over the period.


Shorter Arrival Delays in 2019 Facilitates Supply Chain Planning

While the reasons for the shorter arrival delays in 2019 are not clear, the shorter delays at all three ports are a positive sign for managing inbound ocean containers to the ports. Among the three ports, Shenzhen has experienced the greatest proportion of on-time vessels while Shanghai and Ningbo-Zhoushan have kept their overall monthly average delays under one day as of September 2019. 


Note: The GVVMC shares statistics on port performance so that you can better plan your shipments to select schedules and routings to avoid delays. The statistics reflect the general situation in the past. The future performance of the vessels and ports will depend on the actual situation that could be affected by weather, vessel delays, and other factors.


 No matter which China port you ship cargo through, having up-to-date schedules and visibility to delays can help you improve your cargo planning. CargoSmart will be exhibiting at CIIE in the Trade in Service Exhibition Area on November 5-10, 2019 in booth #1.189-14. Visit our booth to see how CargoSmart can help your business increase visibility to your import shipments.

Tags: sailing schedules , CIIE , big data , vessel arrival delays , analytics , insights