COVID-19: Cargo build-up at ports

According to the first edition of COVID19 Port Economic Impact Barometer by the International Association of Ports and Harbors and World Ports Sustainability Program, there are cargo build-up at some ports and fairly stable port worker availability.  The survey was sent to 273 ports from Africa, North America, Central and South America, Middle East/Central Asia, North Asia, South East Asia/Australasia and Europe.

The first weekly report’s key findings include 

  • 35% of the ports reported extra restrictions in the last week on all incoming passenger vessels compared to 16% for all container vessels and 14% for all other cargo vessels.
  • The COVID19 crisis has resulted in 36% of ports reporting an increase in utilization of warehousing and distribution facilities for foodstuffs and medical supplies, with some ports reporting capacity shortages.  Only 1 out of 10 ports reported a minor under-utilization.
  • About 22% of the ports reported delays (6-24 hours) or heavy delays (> 24 hours) in cross-border road transportation. One port even indicated cross-border trucking has been discontinued.  Overall, 43% of respondents faced delays in cross-border trucking activities.  For trucks arriving or leaving the port, this figure amounted to 39%, rather evenly split between minor delays (less than 6 hours) and more severe disruptions.  Some ports reported that this situation is actually leading to a renewed interest in rail services.
  • Over 40% of the ports experienced moderate (minus 5% to 25%) and in some ports even significant decreases (in excess of a 25% drop) in the number of calls of container and other cargo vessels.  As expected, the cruise/passenger market has been most affected by COVID-19 contagion.  Two thirds of the respondents indicated that passenger vessel calls are down by more than 50%, in some cases even down more than 90%.

Professor Theo Notteboom, one of the report’s author, commented: “Given the tsunami of announced blank sailings in recent weeks, many ports are yet to experience the full impact of the current crisis on container volumes.”

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