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China's Coronavirus Outbreak Could Disrupt Global Shipping, Supply Chains, Experts Warn

LONDON (CBS Local) -- Measures to stop the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak -- shutting down factories and keeping workers at home -- are reducing the number of seaborne vessels and threatening to disrupt global supply chains.

About 80 percent of the world's goods trade by volume is carried by sea and China is home to seven of the world's 10 busiest container ports, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

Everything from cars and machinery to apparel and other consumer staples are shipped in containers and experts say disruption to the industry could reverberate far beyond China.

"A closure of the world's manufacturing hub impacts container shipping at large, as it is a vital facilitator of the intra-Asian and global supply chains," said Peter Sand, chief shipping analyst at BIMCO, an international shipping association.

"This will affect many industries and limit demand for containerized goods transport," he told CNN Business.

A disruption to the supply of parts has already forced carmaker Hyundai to suspend production at its plants in South Korea, the company said in a statement.

Other forms of shipping have also been affected. IAG Cargo, the air cargo arm of British Airways parent IAG, canceled all services to and from mainland China on Feb. 3 for at least the remainder of the month, citing a UK government travel advisory.

The coronavirus outbreak has killed more than 900 people and infected at least 40,000 — mainly in China, where close to 60 million people are living in cities on lockdown.

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