Regional transshipments on the rise with cargo call volumes flat-lining

Below is a summary of trends of the latest IAPH-WPSP Port Economic Impact Barometer, with a record response of 104 ports from around the world. 

Professor Theo Notteboom, who co-authors the report, commented: “Overall, a very fragmented situation for container shipping is becoming evident: some alliances have revamped services, whilst others are keeping cancellations. Some are keeping hi-frequency feeders to major regional ports. A new regional concept for transshipment appears to be emerging.”

  • Blank sailings, mainly on trade routes with the Far East, continue to affect results for container vessel calls, albeit with lesser impact than the last five weeks. 39% of the ports’ container ship calls fell in the last two weeks by 5% to 25%, with 6% experiencing significant drop. 
  • Ports continue to take a major hit from lower passenger vessel calls, including both PAX and ROPAX ships as well as cruise vessels, with 62% reporting further drops in vessel calls in the last fortnight.
  • 76% of the ports report normal or return-to-normal operations in cross-border transport by truck – higher than past weeks, with 92% reporting normal operations for trucks arriving or leaving the port at this time of year. However, actual volumes on the road are significantly lower in many regions, especially in South America.
  • Both rail and barge intermodal services see less delays caused by the COVID-19 situation, with respectively 87% and 80% of applicable ports reporting normal operation.
  • Mixed picture for capacity use at warehousing and storage facilities in ports as the contagion’s impact varies more and more between regions, with a slight overall trend towards under-utilization, especially in countries emerging from lockdown.
  • Only 13% of the ports mention facing shortages of dockworkers, this is the lowest since the survey began.

On the last point however, some port participants have suffered from low dockworker availability more than others depending on average age of the workforce. More than one port has a 30% incidence of workers over sixty either being unavailable or being obliged to take leave as a precaution due to being in the risk category by age.

As regards passenger services, several European countries (e.g. Finland, Greece, Italy, Spain) have lifted previous restrictions on passenger transport excluding cruises. Cruise traffic remains highly restricted, with many governments and health ministries imposing bans, some of which are being enforced for the rest of the year.

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