Monday, May 11, 2020

Survey of World Ports Reveals Europe Worst Hit by Covid-19

Fifth Status Report Published
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – It appears the crisis brought about by the pandemic is hitting European ports harder than those overseas according to the fifth report prepared and released by the WPSP-IAPH World Ports Covid19 Task Force. The International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) and World Ports Sustainability Program (WPSP) say that the impact of reduced calls by shipping have led to a progressive overall decline in utilisation being reported.

The report goes on to say that the European region also has a smaller share of ports now facing capacity shortages of warehousing and storage facilities and appears to be slightly more impacted by shortages of dockworkers, with 28% reporting this occurrence during the recent week. European ports take the largest share of the weekly global port sample, accounting for between 38% and 54% of all received answers.

As an example, the share of ports facing declines in weekly calls of cargo vessels is much higher in Europe than ports globally, the situation in European ports for container vessels and other cargo vessels has gradually deteriorated compared to the first week of the survey. Report co-author Professor Theo Notteboom observed:

“In the coming weeks, several of the larger ports anticipate significant downturns in volumes due to blank sailings in the container segment. We expect these larger hubs to be impacted the most. Nonetheless, how much impact this will have on the global supply chain and how quickly economies will restart, especially in Europe, will require close monitoring.”

Despite the impact of vessel calls increasing across the board, almost all of the 76 ports taking part in this week’s survey are reporting a 5 to 25% decrease. The share of ports facing significant decreases (in excess of a 25% drop) falls sharply from 10-11% in the previous two weeks to less than 2% this week. The situation for the other cargo vessels has remained fairly unchanged compared to last week. The number of ports reporting reductions of more than 25% remained at a level of 12 to 14% throughout weeks 16 to 19. Report co-author Professor Thanos Pallis commented:

“The general loss of cargo for containers is probably less evident than expected, as April has closed with negative year-on-year figures that are much better than initially forecasted. The decrease in the number of container vessels is not always directly related to the Covid-19 crisis.

”Some report on the increase in blank sailings, mainly on the Europe-Far East routes, for others there are no more blank sailings registered but total calls are still down some 20% with respect to a normal fully operational week. Regional feeders in substitution of calls by mega vessels are working well, but shippers do not always welcome the longer transit times associated with transhipment.”

About 12% of the ports surveyed report delays (6-24 hours) or heavy delays (> 24 hours) in cross-border road transportation with 6% of the ports indicating that cross-border trucking has been discontinued. Although this is a minor improvement compared to last week, the situation remains precarious for a number of ports.

In some cases, ports have sought to alleviate congestion at the quayside caused by increased controls on trucks and truckers at borders by evacuating import containers en masse by rail, either to hinterland depots or to staging locations closer to the border away from the port. As an example, to facilitate improved quayside operations on the East African coast, inland rail services transporting up to several thousand TEUs improves cross-border transit with landlocked countries. Kenya Ports Authority Head of Corporate Affairs and member of the WPSP Covid19 Task Force Bernard O Osero commented:

“Every day, we dispatch 10 trains from Mombasa carrying hinterland-destined cargo to Nairobi depot, 500 kilometres away. This is about 1,000 TEUs a day. In addition, from this week, we have opened a special service directly from Mombasa to Naivasha depot 650 kilometres away from Mombasa and 400 kilometres from the border, specifically for transit traffic. This is an average of 100 TEUs and it is expected to increase.”

Photo: Courtesy IAPH.