The metropolis of Shanghai has been in a corona lockdown since the end of March. Even if the authorities are now slowly easing the measures, the effects in Germany will still be felt throughout the summer.
When a container ship docks in Hamburg these days that previously picked up cargo in Shanghai, it’s a glimpse into a simpler past. The direct journey from the giant port in eastern China to the metropolis on the Elbe alone takes more than a month, but most container ships stop at other ports along the way, so that the journey can actually take up to 80 days. The ships that are now delivering their goods have not yet experienced the lockdown in Shanghai.
The metropolis has been in dormant mode since the end of March. Residents are not allowed to leave their homes, shops are closed. Although operations continue in the world’s largest commercial port, the delivery routes for goods to the piers no longer work because factories in the surrounding area have been shut down and trucks and trains are not running. At times, a long traffic jam formed off the coast. This not only affected the port of Shanghai, because the Yangtze River, which is important for trade, also flows into the sea at the metropolis. At the southern end of Hangzhou Bay are other important points on the trading map with the metropolis of the same name and the third largest trading port in the world – Ningbo-Zhoushan.
The congestion of container ships off Shanghai now has to be slowly cleared. It will be months before traffic flows like it did before the lockdown. This is only now being felt in Germany, because ships that left Shanghai at the beginning of April did not arrive in Europe until May at the earliest. Most are only now moving towards the ports in the Mediterranean, Rotterdam, Hamburg and Bremen. This means that the lockdown crisis from Shanghai is only now reaching us.
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The London shipping consultancy Drewry estimates that in April 260,000 fewer containers were loaded in Shanghai than in normal operations. It would have contained many products that German consumers would like to hold in their hands. Laptops, smartphones and other electronic products, for example, but also furniture, textiles and toys. Almost more important: the lack of goods from China is also affecting many other industries, because German manufacturers obtain important raw materials and intermediate products from Shanghai. These would include elements such as lithium and cobalt for electric cars and batteries, but above all many electronic components from semiconductors to circuit boards to circuits.
The annoying thing: It’s not like these commodities were available in abundance before the Shanghai lockdown. German industrial companies have been complaining about material shortages for more than a year. According to a survey by the Ifo Institute, in April 75 percent of the companies were missing goods. Although that is less than in the previous months, it is still an extremely high value. The Shanghai lockdown, which is now being felt with a delay in Germany, could cause the number to rise again. “Looking at China causes concern,” said survey leader Klaus Wohlrabe a month ago.
Further lockdowns in China cannot be ruled out. The country continues to take rigorous action in the event of corona cases. Shanghai was cordoned off after 3,500 corona cases were discovered among the 26.3 million inhabitants. This corresponds to an incidence of 13. Such clusters exist and will continue to exist in other megacities. If China continues on its way with immediate hard lockdowns, even more factories and ports will have to suffer.
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In Germany, this will have the same impact as we are used to from last year. Certain products, especially large electrical appliances and furniture, are likely to continue to have very long delivery times or be completely out of stock. Companies, for example in the automotive industry, could be forced to cut production or even stop it temporarily and send employees on short-time work. This also applies to companies that do not directly purchase goods from China. This is because they often have suppliers in other countries for components, for which the suppliers in turn depend on Chinese products.
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