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‘Global shipping badly hit by the pandemic’

International transport continued to be at the forefront of trade despite challenges brought by the pandemic that severely affected the cruise sector in 2020, according to the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA).

The coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) impact on shipping report released by EMSA showed that the commercial ship operations, ports, and other maritime transport sectors maintained their operations to ensure the movement of goods, despite low cargoes and passengers.

The EMSA report provided figures on the impact of Covid-19 on shipping traffic using data mainly from the Union Maritime Information and Exchange System (SafeSeaNet1), and in certain cases combined with LRIT and MARINFO data.

The shipping industry has been impacted both directly and indirectly, particularly the cruise sector and the transport of passengers. Other sectors were also impacted, but in general, the trade continued.

The report was based on solid vessel movement statistics, which showed the port call trends without interpreting the statistical data. The number of ship calls at European Union (EU) ports declined by 10.2 percent in 2020 compared to 2019. The number of ship calls increased by 2 percent year-on-year in March 2021.

The most significantly affected sectors were the cruise ships, passenger ships, refrigerated cargo ships, and vehicle carriers. Meanwhile, the number of Ro-Ro passenger vessels grew 10 percent. EMSA said the most affected countries were Cyprus, Finland, Latvia, and Portugal.

The EMSA report analyzed the impact of the Covid outbreak on the activities of ships of EU member states in terms of calls at any port in the world, after processing data from MARINFO for 2019, 2020, and 2021.

The total number of calls at all ports in the world by vessels flying the flags of EU Member States (the UK excluded) in 2020 decreased by 3.5 percent year-on-year. The related total gross tonnage decreased by 11.1 percent. The significant decrease started in mid-March 2020 when the COVID-19 outbreak escalated across Europe that led to lockdown measures by many EU member states.

This trend appeared more stable in August 2020, alternating small positive and negative monthly variations.

EMSA also analyzed how the shipping routes from Europe to China and from Europe to the US have been affected. “In 2020, the ship traffic from Europe to China and the US has declined compared to the same period in 2019. This negative trend continues to be observed with traffic to and from China, but not with US traffic for March 2021.”

There was a growing number of cruise ships bound to EU ports that stayed at ports or anchorages. The number of persons on board (PoB) cruise ships began to decrease gradually beginning March 2020 and remained at a very low level corresponding mainly to crew members on board these ships.

“Every major cruise line in the world suspended departures in mid-March as the coronavirus outbreak grew, with some returning to operations in a limited number of vessels and areas,” the report showed.

The 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 has been an increasing number of ships “at anchor” compared to 2019.
Source: Manila Times

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