EMSA issues a report providing figures on the impact of COVID-19 on shipping traffic. The report is based on solid vessel movements statistics showing the port call trends without interpreting the statistical data.
y analysing ship calls at EU ports it was found that the number of ships calls at EU ports declined by 10% in the 2020 compared to 2019. The number of ships calls in September 2021 increased by 9% compared to the same month in 2019. The most significantly affected sectors have been the Cruise ships, Refrigerated cargo ships and Vehicle carriers. Meanwhile, the number of Passenger ships, Ro-Ro Passenger vessels and Ro-Ro cargo vessels had an increase of 8%, 22% and 11% respectively.
The report also found that the most affected countries are Croatia, Cyprus, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Portugal and Spain.
Furthermore, the total number of calls (at all ports in the world) by vessels flying the flags of EU Member States (UK excluded) in 2020 decreased by 3.5% in comparison to 2019; similarly, the related total gross tonnage decreased by 11.1%.
In particular, a significant decrease started in mid-March 2020, as an impact of the COVID-19 outbreak escalation across Europe that obliged many EU Member States to put in place lockdown measures
From August 2020, however, this trend appeared more stable, alternating small positive and negative monthly variations. Namely, in the current month of 2021, there is an increase of the number of port calls with a positive 17% variation to the 2019 values and a slight decrease of -1% of the total gross tonnage calling.
Almost all the EU-MS flagged fleets increased their number of port calls in the current month compared with the homologous month in 2019; only decreasing in Belgium, France, Greece and Romania but with small magnitude variations lesser than 10% decrease
On the other hand, there are very significant increases for Latvia and Poland as well as for Denmark and Estonia, followed by Ireland, Sweden and Finland.
EMSA also analysed how the shipping routes from Europe to China and from Europe to the US have been affected. In fact, in 2020, the ship traffic from Europe to China and the US has declined when compared to same periods in 2019.
In 2021 the traffic to and from China is still below the 2019 values even though increasing above the values from 2020. However, in the traffic with the US, in particular the exports from the EU have recovered and increased to values above pre-pandemic since March 2021, while the imports from the US are now reaching the pre-pandemic values.
The EMSA analysis also put focus on ships carrying passengers which were mostly affected by COVID-19. The report showed that the number of Persons on Board (PoB) on cruise ships began to decrease gradually from the beginning of March 2020 and remained at a very low level corresponding mainly to crew members on board these ships.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continued to roll, ports have faced an unprecedented number of vessels at anchor and vessels queue up waiting for a spot to unload cargo. Since the beginning of 2020 and especially since week 13 (23-29 March 2020) there is an increase number of ships “at anchor” in comparison with 2019.
The EMSA report further demonstrated that the cruises sector and in general the transport of passengers are the sectors most heavily impacted by the COVID-19. Other sectors were also impacted, but in general the trade didn’t stop.
Despite of the difficulties, commercial ship operations, ports and other maritime transport sectors continued to operate ensuring the movement of goods and proving the strategic importance of maritime for our livelihoods