Fragmented situation for container shipping emerges

Aerial shot of a massive cargo ship arriving in the Port of Long Beach, California.

A fragmented situation is emerging as blank sailings continue for some while others restore services, according to a recent report by the World Ports Sustainability Program (WPSP) and International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH).

A record number of ports, 104, responded to the latest IAPH-WPSP Port Economic Impact Barometer according to an 8 June statement.

The report highlighted that blank sailings, mainly on trade routes with the Far East, continue to affect results for container vessel calls, albeit with lesser impact than the last five weeks. 39% of the ports’ container ship calls fell in the last two weeks by 5 to 25% (45% of week 21), with 6% experiencing significant drop (in excess of 25%).

These blank sailings have particularly affected the number of mainline vessel calls at hub ports, with a peak in Europe during week 19. Other regions do not appear to have reached a peak as yet but are also clearly negatively impacted.

Professor Theo Notteboom, co-author of the report, commented : “Overall, a very fragmented situation for container shipping is becoming evident: some alliances have revamped services, whilst others are keeping cancellations. Some are keeping hi-frequency feeders to major regional ports. A new regional concept for transshipment appears to be emerging.”

Meanwhile, 76% of the ports report normal or return-to-normal operations in cross-border transport by truck – higher than past weeks, with 92% reporting normal operations for trucks arriving or leaving the port at this time of year.

However, actual volumes on the road are significantly lower in many regions, especially in South America.

The report also notes that there is also a mixed picture for capacity use at warehousing and storage facilities in ports as the contagion’s impact varies more and more between regions, with a slight overall trend towards under-utilization, especially in countries emerging from lockdown.

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