I didn’t expect to do another supply chain disruption update just two days after the last one, but there’s a lot more news popping up:
- An energy shortage is plaguing China:
Residents in three north-east Chinese provinces experienced unannounced power cuts as the electricity shortage which initially hit factories spreads to homes.
People living in Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces complained on social media about the lack of heating, and lifts and traffic lights not working.
Local media in China – which is highly dependent on coal for power – said the cause was a surge in coal prices leading to short supply. As shown in the chart below, Chinese thermal coal futures have more than doubled in price in the past year.
There are several reasons for the surge in thermal coal, among them already extremely tight energy supply globally (that’s already seen chaos engulf markets in Europe); the sharp economic rebound from COVID lockdowns that has boosted demand from households and businesses; a warm summer which led to extreme air condition consumption across China; the escalating trade spat with Australia which had depressed the coal trade and Chinese power companies ramping up power purchases to ensure winter coal supply.
Then there is Beijing’s pursuit of curbing carbon emissions – Xi Jinping wants to ensure blue skies at the Winter Olympics in Beijing next February, showing the international community that he’s serious about de-carbonizing the economy – that has led to artificial bottlenecks in the coal supply chain.
- More than two hundred container ships are waiting to load up outside Chinese ports:
There are over 60 container ships full of import cargo stuck offshore of Los Angeles and Long Beach, but there are more than double that — 154 as of Friday — waiting to load export cargo off Shanghai and Ningbo in China, according to eeSea, a company that analyzes carrier schedules.
The number of container ships anchored off Shanghai and Ningbo has surged over recent weeks. There are now 242 container ships waiting for berths countrywide. Whether it’s due to heavy export volumes, Typhoon Chanthu or COVID, rising congestion in China is yet another wild card for the trans-Pacific trade.