The majority of a total of 73 ports surveyed globally reported either stable or a rebound of containers, bulk and liquid bulk volumes compared to volumes for September and October last year.
This is a main finding of a survey by the International Association of Ports and Harbors WPSP COVID 19 Task Force, which issued its 14th report since April and the initial outbreak of COVID-19 on a global scale.
The report, complied by Professors Theo Notteboom and Thanos Palis, is based on replies of 73 world ports, which on this occasion has obtained improved responses from Asia and Africa to complement the decent response from the Americas (20.1%) and Europe (41,1%).
Probably the most significant result of the survey is the consistent uptick in delays on the intermodal connections between ports and the hinterlands, including cross-border cargo traffic.
Meanwhile, some 14.6% of ports face disruptions in rail services, up from the record low figure of 4.9% in October. The same goes for barge services, with 83% of ports reporting normal operations this month compared to 96% last month.
The survey’s silver lining is that cargo volume throughputs for containers, bulk and liquid bulk cargo volumes at ports close 70% at stable level or above 2019 levels. Overall, the figures are very similar for these three traffic categories at both ends of the spectrum.
Despite this, in some cases, respondents from ports reported a significant 25 to 50% decrease of mega-vessel calls indicating possible structural changes in shipping networks might be underway. The potential of structural changes is also present in reports by Latin America ports, as some of them reported that although container vessels calls have decreased, containerised cargo has already started to surge.
However this is not the case for passenger traffic. A total of 64% of ports see a volume drop in passenger traffic of more than 25%. At the other end of the scale, 26% of ports primarily serving ferry services record rather stable passenger numbers.
The reopening of markets and the current wave of restocking/stockpiling have resulted in a surge of containerised flows in recent weeks, with numerous ports in Europe and North America reporting record traffic volumes on the import side, while many key Asian ports are also seeing strong recovery of the volumes compared to the first half of the year. This sudden surge in volumes on several of the big trade routes and mass container repositioning back to Asia is testing the capacity limits of ports/terminals and the inland transport systems, leading to disruptions in hinterland transport connectivity in some ports,
…explained Professor Theo Notteboom.
In the meantime, more ports are reporting a sharp decline in cruise vessel calls this month.
Cruise ports in Asia, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean remain inactive since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020 and there is very limited economic activity at those ports in these regions that serve this traffic; notably though some efforts for domestic cruises reopening were reported this month in Japan and Fijian Islands. In Europe, where cruise business had slowly started sailing until almost the end of October at a capacity of no more than 20-25% of the lower berths available, the situation in the beginning of November is worse than a month ago,
…commented co-author Professor Thanos Pallis.