Anti-Zika rules may delay China-bound shipments

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A RECENT Chinese initiative to tighten measures for preventing the spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in the country are threatening to cause delays to shipments at one of the busiest times of the year, exporters and freight forwarders have complained.

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China this week issued amendments to regulations that were implemented in March and added to its Zika virus list countries that were not on the list. The revised rules require that all containers arriving at Chinese ports from listed countries have either a Mosquito Eradication Certification (MEC), or be quarantined for fumigation before being released from the port.

The issue came to head because the most significant amendment was the addition of the United States to the list of countries to which the regulations apply. The US is China’s largest trading partner.

The Philippines is likewise on the list of countries covered by the regulation.

According to Chinese import authorities, a container arriving without a proper MEC will be delayed by about 24 hours, and incur an additional processing cost of 200 yuan (about $30) for a 20-foot box or 400 yuan ($60) for a 40-foot container. In a report in Journal of Commerce, however, several US forwarders complained the average delay is 3 days, with the extra handling needing driving the total cost per container to about 2,000 yuan ($300).

The shippers are alarmed that perishable products, particularly agricultural products, could spoil if delayed, and that congestion could develop in Chinese ports due to the fumigation process.

Shippers in the Philippines are also affected by the regulations, and could face difficulties as August ends and the year enters its busy period, a local freight forwarding company said.

A spokesperson for Victors Freight International Corp. said that while the regulations—which are available on the website of the China Inspection and Quarantine Services (CIQ)—are fairly straightforward, under the procedures required in the Philippines, the exporter must obtain the required MEC from the relevant government agency depending on the cargo. For example, agricultural products would require a certification from the Department of Agriculture, seafood products would require clearance from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and other food or cosmetic products would require Food and Drug Administration certification.

“It can be a bit of a hassle, especially as we are getting into the busy season,” Victors’ representative agreed. “We are, however, able to help shippers by directing them to the proper agency.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for port operator Asian Terminals Inc. (ATI), which operates terminals at Manila’s south port and Batangas, indicated that port operations here should not be affected, as the Chinese MEC requirement was purely a concern for shippers.

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