Customs delays, weather, trucking fees blamed for Yangshan's sinking fortunes Shanghai's multibillion-dollar port development at Yangshan has slashed handling charges to quell growing discontent among its customers after a series of recent closures saw carriers divert cargo, leaving the terminal well behind business targets for the year. Yangshan, which opened on December 20 last year after a start-up cost of 18 billion yuan, has struggled with a series of weather-related closures and, with the start of the summer typhoon season only weeks away, shipping lines fear the worst may be yet to come. 'The Shanghai municipal government told us to lower the handling rates to catch up with the shortfall in throughput,' Feng Lide, the Shanghai International Port Group's (SIPG) operations manager, said yesterday. The state-of-the-art facility moved about 790,000 teu (20-foot equivalent units) of freight in the first four months of this year, about 20 per cent behind the pace needed to reach its target of three million boxes in the first year of operations. State-controlled SIPG, 30 per cent owned by blue chip China Merchants Holdings (International), on Wednesday slashed transshipment - or cargo relay - rates by 22 per cent for international and China coastal freight. Relay handling charges for containers stuffed with cargo moving to and from locations in the Yangtze River delta were cut 53 per cent and shuttle rates between Shanghai's older port at Waigaoqiao and Yangshan were lowered to 150 yuan from 350 for each 20-foot box. A spokeswoman for China Merchants said the firm supported the decision to cut charges. 'They want to transform Shanghai into an international hub as soon as possible,' she said. 'So, it is understandable.' The new port, which was built on two islands close to the mouth of the Yangtze River, has been suffering teething problems, according to carriers and exporters. Customs inspections can delay shipments for more than week in some cases and a run of bad weather has heightened the sense of unpredictability among it customers. Shanghai's exporters, which tell the carriers where to pick up cargo, have begun to shy away from Yangshan, not least because of the 800 to 1,000 yuan more per box they pay to truckers for the three-hour drive to the new port. Reports vary on the number of days that operations have been disputed since its opening almost five months ago. Official SIPG accounts record five stoppages so far for a total of 26 hours. But according to the internal records of an Asian shipping line that frequently calls at the port, weather-related closures saw Yangshan lose all or part of 24 days since its opening. High winds and dense fog have been the biggest culprits. Waigaoqiao, which is further up the Yangtze near the mouth of the Huangpu River, has also had its share of disruptions, losing all or part of 27 days, according to the shipping line's records.