Survey finds steady global recovery in container vessel calls

Some 56% of ports are now reporting similar numbers of container vessel arrivals comparable to the same period last year.

On the week following the six-month anniversary of the World Health Organization (WHO) announcement of COVID19 as a global pandemic, the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH)’s new report found that there is a recovery in container vessel calls coupled with increased utilization in storage and warehouse capacity.  The latest week 36 report summarized responses from 85 ports from around the world.

Some 56% of ports are now reporting similar numbers of container vessel arrivals comparable to the same period last year, which is the highest percentage to date. With generalized lockdowns now limited, the return of vessels and the lower numbers of blank sailings continue, yet these happen at a slower pace. About 16% of the respondents point to increased vessel activity.

By comparison, the share of ports reporting that the number of calls by other cargo vessel types is rather stable compared to a normal situation, fluctuating between 46 and 59%, with the lowest shares recorded in weeks 18 to 21 and in week 36. In the latter week however, about 14% of ports reported a rise of more than 5% in other cargo vessel activity compared to last year, the highest figure since the start of the survey.

The survey results for week 36 show the COVID19 crisis has resulted in 20% of ports reporting an increase in utilization of warehousing and distribution facilities for foodstuffs and medical supplies, a doubling of the figure compared to week 29. From week 19 to week 27 (six survey weeks in a row), more ports faced underutilization than higher utilization levels for consumer goods. The figures reached a balance in week 29 (10% each), with week 36 tilting the balance again towards increased usage of facilities.

Co-author of report Professor Theo Notteboom commented: “In the current conditions and given the sharp decline in the numbers of blank sailings, an increasing number of ports are heading to almost similar numbers of calls compared to the same period the year before. At the same time, maritime trade volumes have also started to increase, as several economies, or major parts of them, have returned to operations and increased number of transactions.”

The cruise/passenger market remains the most affected by the COVID-19 contagion, although the results since week 27 show some improvement. In week 36, 45% of respondents indicate that passenger vessel calls are down more than 50%, in many cases even down more than 90%. In the period from week 20 to week 25 this figure was 61-62% while in weeks 15 to 18 this figure amounted to two thirds of respondents with a peak of 76% in week 19.

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