Port operators have warned of further disruption and congestion wreaked by a tsunami of ships heading for European ports as lockdowns in China are eased.

The Federation of European Private Port Companies and Terminals (Feport) fears a swathe of ships set to head to Europe in the next eight to 12 weeks.

It is urging the European Commission to oversee talks with stakeholders to draw up contingency plans.

These would help avert the spillover of China congestion that would cause a ‘nightmare’ for European logistics and supply chains, according to Feport secretary-general Lamia Kerdjoudji-Belkaid.

“It is very urgent to anticipate and get organised,” she said.

Stakeholders need to discuss “how we can individually and collectively prepare”, she added.

“EU seaport terminals cannot be once again the buffer absorbing all the shocks and pressure that will result from the situation prevailing in Shanghai.

“We need commitments from all parties to act in order to adapt to the situation that will affect European ports in eight to 12 weeks from now,” she added.

Feport secretary-general Lamia Kerdjoudji-Belkaid urges the European Commission to discuss contingency plans. Photo: Feport

The ongoing lockdown in China has already resulted in container shipping congestion being propelled close to the record highs seen last year.

Clarksons’ port congestion index showed 37% of boxship fleet capacity at port at the end of March, only a little below the previous record in late October 2021.

China was a major driver with the average volume of containership capacity 'at port' in China up by almost a third in the first half of April, or 600,000 teu, it said.

That increase is the equivalent of soaking up over 2% of the current global boxship fleet capacity.

Capacity ‘at port’ in China of around 2.5m teu stands close to the peak seen in October 2021.

There are already signs of congestion in European ports, partly due to the war in Ukraine.

But German port operator HHLA is operating at full capacity to clear the backlog of ships in the German Bight, said chairwoman Angela Titzrath.

The company has so far been able to maintain operations at its terminals and hinterland connections, she explained.