Air carriers are adjusting their operations and diverting shipments in the face of freighter suspensions at Shanghai Pudong International Airport.
The suspensions are due to the closure of Shanghai Pudong International Airport Cargo Terminal (known as PACTL), which began Aug. 20 after COVID-19 cases were reported among cargo workers. The closure has added further constraints to limited airfreight capacity out of Asia.
Lufthansa Cargo is not accepting any additional freight for transport to Shanghai through Friday, the company said in a statement. Qatar Airways, Air Bridge Cargo and Polar Air Cargo have diverted future shipments to other airports in China, Everstream Analytics said in a report. Those carriers did not respond to requests for comment.
The exact duration of the suspensions remains unclear. But Flexport expects congestion at the airport to persist "through the week of August 30, with the hopes we can get back to 'normal' by early September," said Neel Jones Shah, executive vice president and global head of airfreight, in an email.
However long the freighter suspensions last, "the impact will be significant," C.H. Robinson said in an advisory Tuesday. The suspensions, affecting PACTL, have already hobbled the operations of at least one major shipper.
Mazda Motor Corporation stopped its night shift operations at two plants in Japan due to cargo shipments being canceled as a result of the suspensions, a company spokesperson confirmed. The operations pause will last until Friday. Everstream said Mazda's "supplies of in-vehicle components using semiconductors" were affected.
Cargo handling capacity at some airports in China had already been limited due to stricter pandemic regulations, Lufthansa said. But the prolonged closure "will likely add to the backlog of air cargo shipments that has started to build up since July 2021" at the airport, Everstream said.
Transit times will be extended by five to seven days for Transpacific eastbound lanes due to the suspensions, Flexport said in a market update.
The outbreak took place at ground handling agent Shanghai International Airport Services, of which 22 airlines rely on for services at the airport, Everstream said. The company advised customers to use airlines relying on unaffected ground handlers like Cargolux, Nippon Cargo, ANA, Kalitta Air and SF Express.
Cathay Pacific said in a statement it has resumed most of its freighter services to and from the airport. FedEx, UPS and DHL said in statements they are implementing contingency plans to adjust to the pandemic safety measures, but none provided specifics.
Flexport has been trucking much of its clients' cargo from Shanghai's airport to Hong Kong International Airport to avoid delays, Shah said. He added that the congestion is "part of a larger cycle of congestion that will compound the 'super peak' we're already in."
High airfreight demand from Asia to North America is leading to increased rates, C.H. Robinson said in a freight market update. This is happening amid limited air cargo capacity, with airlines beginning scheduled maintenance of aircraft in preparation for peak season
"As the holiday shopping season ramps up, companies will have to get creative and be flexible with how and where they move cargo to get goods on shelves and fulfill orders during the most important time of the retail sales cycle," Shah said.