APRIL 2020: With a looming economic slowdown and the prospect of a prolonged US-China trade war, the last two quarters of 2019 were already rife with trade uncertainty. Enter coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), and the outlook went from troubling to traumatic. Port operators, carriers, and beneficial cargo owners (BCOs) found themselves coping with dramatic changes in demand, sourcing, supply, inventories, manpower, and capacity.

The full economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is yet to be determined. Meanwhile, ports and logistics providers serving the Asian trade are responding with resilience and long-term vision. Infrastructure initiatives currently underway and abiding confidence in an eventual return to some form of balance continue to drive development.

Shifting supply chain configurations and the growth of consumerism throughout Asia are fueling these investments. Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member nations — which include Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), Myanmar, and Vietnam — are capturing market share by offering latest-generation facilities, lower congestion, and proximity to emergent markets. Nevertheless, China remains the leader in manufacturing origin locations.

Port of Nansha in Guangzhou provides a fitting case study in ongoing development. Located on the west bank of the Pearl River Delta, it is the fastest-growing seaport in South China; the hub handled nearly 17 million twenty-foot-equivalent units (TEU) last year across its 16 container berths, measuring a total of more than 18,700 feet. Its channel is already mega-ship capable, and the port offers weekly sailings to Europe, America, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean.

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