Market waits as soybean cargo crew tests Covid-19 positive in China

29 Jul 2020 | Johnny Huang

A cargo of soybeans imported to north China from Brazil has been detained, with local sources saying up to 10 crew members onboard the ship tested positive for Covid-19, trade sources have told Agricensus Wednesday. 

The discovery has delayed the unloading process and stoked fears among crushers given that there is a huge soybean export programme currently on the water after Brazil recorded a series of record monthly export figures. 

The vessel, thought to be the Star Jeannette, has been detained at dock for at least the last four days after crew members tested positive for the coronavirus following their arrival at the port of Yantai in Shandong province at 0700 on Saturday July 25.

The vessel originated in Rio Grande, according to AIS system data, but has been waiting at dock for further inspections. Authorities are preventing the cargo from being unloaded, multiple China-based trade sources with knowledge of the matter told Agricensus.

“There is concern in China’s soybean market. Some crushers are wary of buying,” one China-based source close to the matter said. “Cargoes carrying iron ore also have reported crews who tested positive. But this one is carrying food.”

“Those crews who got the virus will be taken to the local hospital and others will remain in quarantine,” one soybean trader said.

“I heard the vessel need to change the crew in the Philippines first,” another trader said.

The vessel is owned by the Star Bulk company, which was not available for comment by time of press.

Crew members on ships in the neighbouring port of Rizhao in the same province also reportedly tested positive for Covid-19, sources added.

Local customs regulations require that all crews on any cargo ship arriving in China be tested for Covid-19 coronavirus and need to be quarantined for at least 14 days if testing positive, sources in the soybean market said.

Local customs could not be reached by 1000 London time Wednesday.

China’s soybean imports in recent months have reached record levels. In June this year, volume hit an all-time high of 11.16 million mt, of which the majority was of Brazilian origin.

The country’s soybean imports in July are also expected to total around 10 million mt.

But this incident could raise the alarm for Chinese authorities and potentially slow down the clearing process for soybean cargoes.