CMA-CGM, the world's fourth-largest container shipping line, has told customers it will not take bookings for cargo due to arrive at ports in southern China over several weeks in early 2021 due to a suspension of service by feeder operators.
Feeders collect containers from smaller ports and take them to terminals where they can be loaded onto large vessels.
CMA-CGM's move comes amid a global shortage of containers that is likely to hamper surging exports from China as the world stocks on up everything from appliances to personal protective equipment after the coronavirus crisis.
South China and Hong Kong feeder operators have announced suspensions from January 5 to February 21 "in view of COVID-19 quarantine requirements for ship crews" before Lunar New Year, CMA-CGM's Singapore office said in a notice to customers.
Marseille-based CMA-CGM did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the notice, which was seen by Reuters and dated Dec. 7.
"In light of this situation, CMA-CGM will be temporarily suspending cargo" bound for at least 28 ports from Fuzhou in Fujian province to Haikou on Hainan island with estimated arrival dates over that period, the notice said.
Lunar New Year, which in 2021 falls on Feb. 12, is marked with a week-long holiday in China that typically leads to congestion at the country's ports.
The suspension applies to all trades except those with CMA-CGM subsidiary CNC, the notice said, adding that service is expected to resume after Feb. 21, pending further updates from feeder operators.
It listed some exceptions for transhipments via Nansha, Shekou and Hong Kong, for dry cargo only, subject to an additional feeder surcharge
(Reporting by Tom Daly; additional reporting by Roslan Khasawneh; Editing by Pratima Desai and Alexander Smith)