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China isolates port in Wuhan. Cruise lines cancel trips from China

PortandTerminal.com, January 26, 2020

China has imposed a ban on ship entry to the Port of Wuhan to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

HONG KONG – The Wall Street Journal is reporting that China has started holding back some ships from calling at the city of Wuhan, a major trade hub on the Yangtze River, as the country seeks to contain the fast-spreading coronavirus

On 23 January 2020, the Chinese government announced a lockdown of Wuhan as it raced to contain the outbreak. This means that transport services to and from Wuhan are near-impossible. Wuhan tightened its restrictions further on Saturday (January 25) with a ban on vehicle traffic in the city center, to begin at midnight.

China also said on Saturday that it would suspend all tour groups and the sale of flight and hotel packages for its citizens headed overseas, starting on Monday.

Port of Wuhan

Wuhan, an industrial city of 11 million people, is an important river port that handles close to 1.5 million containers a year, along with thousands of tons of coal, steel, crude and fertilizer cargoes. The port also handles tens of thousands of passengers and tourists.

“There isn’t a central order to stop ships, but more than a dozen that were supposed to call [at Wuhan] over the past two days are held down river,” said Zhang Yong, a tug captain at the city’s port. “There are health warnings to wash hands, don’t touch your mouth and go to a doctor if you feel sick. I wear a mask, people are getting scared and I hope it’s sorted out soon because it will hurt business a lot,” he said.

Barge operators in Wuhan confirmed that fewer ships have been coming into the port and leaving it, causing delays to cargo.

Protection and indemnity clubs and insurance specialists have issued circulars advising owners of vessels in or calling at Chinese ports, to watch out if their crew members fall ill.

Ship crews arriving in China have been advised to stay on board and customs workers are asked to wear masks before boarding the ship. Ship insurers have said that if the virus spreads, ports could also be closed down.

Calls to Wuhan Port Affairs Group, the state entity that runs the port, weren’t answered according to the Wall Street Journal, but a port official at Huanggang, about 35 miles east of Wuhan, said barge traffic at that part of the Yangtze had slowed down

READ: Singapore Port Authority implements controls to prevent coronavirus

They are spraying some containers before they go on ships and there is some congestion up the river as ships stay anchored. Big liners keep on coming in, but crews are asked to stay onboard and captains ask customs to wear protective gear before entering the ships,” the official, who asked not to be named, said.

Ship insurers said that ports could be quarantined if the virus spreads.

“Apart from the obvious danger to crew members of contracting the illness at a port in an infected area, port authorities may institute reporting and quarantine measures to guard against the spread of the disease from vessels that have previously called at infected ports, and in the most severe cases of outbreak ports may be closed altogether,” said Rohan Bray, chief executive of insurance major Steamship Mutual in Hong Kong.

Mr. Bray added that the epidemic “would have to escalate substantially before owners could consider legitimately refusing to call at scheduled or ordered ports on account of the safety of the crew.”

Big European liners and China’s Cosco Shipping Holdings Co. said they hadn’t altered their Chinese services, but brokers said they have seen delays in services between Yokohama, Japan, and Wuhan. Some gas carriers were also held back Thursday from calling at Wuhan, brokers said.

READ: Are cruise lines ready to deal with the new pandemic out of China?

Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises though are all cancelling upcoming departures from China due to the coronavirus outbreak. Passengers scheduled to sail on the cruise ship will receive full refunds for the cancellation.

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