Ports worldwide are now facing serious disruption due to coronavirus as port calls in China have dropped by over 30% since the beginning of 2020, a vessel tracking firm has warned.
The latest data from Windward shows the impact on maritime operations as availability of goods for export in China has decreased. Ports in China are under government restrictions on movement and worldwide ports and shipping companies have issued their own precautionary procedures.
Other issues are at stake for port operators though. The company noted that “port demand across the world looks set to be significantly reduced as the lack of ships departing from China ripples through to receiving ports in Europe and North America”.
It added: “A reduction that is before any account is taken of possible widening of the pandemic into Europe or the Americas, which could further impact global import/export activity, and bring further headaches to those who manage port operations.”
In addition to manufacturers in Europe and the US not being able to obtain goods from China, global commodity prices have also been impacted, as companies explore ship-to-ship transfers as a way of avoiding coronavirus restrictions. This is something that will further hit port operations globally, noted Windward.
Keeping control of the virus itself is a priority for port operators in Asia. They are aiming to ensure they prevent spread of the virus through crew and shipping personnel. “What ships should be in port, and how can this be managed?” is a key question, said Windward.
Ports need to maximise the data available to them to best manage coronavirus impacts, including sanctions history, recent port calls and cargo onboard.
On 19 February the IMO issued a circular urging “Flag State authorities, port State authorities and control regimes, companies and shipmasters to cooperate, in the current context of the outbreak, to ensure that, where appropriate, passengers can be embarked and disembarked, cargo operations can occur, ships can enter and depart shipyards for repair and survey, stores and supplies can be loaded, certificates can be issued and crews can be exchanged”.