COVID-19: Ports reported increased movement of foodstuffs, medical supplies

35% of ports reported an increase in utilization of warehousing and distribution facilities for foodstuffs and medical supplies.

According to the weekly edition of COVID19 Port Economic Impact Barometer by the International Association of Ports and Harbors and World Ports Sustainability Program, the COVID-19 crisis has 35% of ports reporting an increase in utilization of warehousing and distribution facilities in the last week for foodstuffs and medical supplies, whilst other ports report both over- and under-utilization of their storage facilities, depending on cargo type.

The most critical situation recorded is for the automotive industry. As dealers fail to collect their new cars (due to a collapse in sale), overcrowding of relevant storage areas near some quaysides has been reported.

The situation for consumer goods has almost remained the same, although there is an increase in the share of ports dealing with major increases in utilization or facing capacity shortages (11% now vs. 8% last week). In the dry and liquid bulk markets, almost two thirds of the respondents see no changes in utilization levels. The remaining ports are fairly evenly distributed between under-utilisation and increased utilisation of storage facilities.

Several ports report an increase in port and terminal utilization due to an increase in the imports of essential goods, such as grains (rice, wheat). Stockpiling practices of importers have also emerged and as a result a major increase in capacity utilization for these deliverables is not uncommon. Other ports reported strategic storage of liquid bulks by traders in anticipation of future commodity price developments. 

Conventional cargo storage has dipped significantly, a phenomenon which has been reported before the COVID-19 outbreak. In addition, where strategic storage is not taking place, ports have reported dips in liquid bulk cargo, especially for imported fuels and power generation-related products. This has been either due to low consumer demand (e.g. petrol for cars) or due to a lack of industrial production and mild climate. 

Similarly, ports report less or no vessels carrying cement and sand in bulk as per usual volumes for the year due to the halt in construction works.

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