With the growing easing of generalised lockdowns, more vessels are returning to service and there are fewer blank sailings, according to the latest bi-weekly World Port Sustainability Programme (WPSP)-International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) Covid-19 Economic Impact Barometer report.
While the pace is slow, ports registering the ‘normal’ number of container ships calling has exceeded the 50% threshold since its launch in April, according to co-authors Professor Theo Notteboom and Professor Thanos Pallis.
There’s been a similar trend in the case of vessels carrying other types of cargo. “Several ports are certain that in the current conditions and given the numbers of blank sailings of coming weeks they will soon head to almost similar numbers of calls compared to the same period the year before,” says Notteboom. “At the same time, maritime trade volumes have also started to increase, as several economies, or major parts of them, have returned to operation and increased the number of transactions.”
Cruise ship calls however remain at almost zero levels – but Pallis believes this may not last long. “Cruise lines’ announcements to return to operations have become more frequent than in previous weeks. To give an example, in light of recent EU-produced interim advice for restarting cruise ship operations after lifting restrictive measures in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, travel company TUI announced its 'blue cruises' programme, where passengers remain on-board and at sea for the entire cruise, embarking and disembarking from Hamburg. Cruise company Aida has also announced the restarting of a few traditional cruises in North Europe.
“Based on our experience of the last 14 weeks, we should be capable of capturing trends early on in ports and maritime supply chains, especially during a crisis. Building capacity in the port sector to minimise risk is vital, and such reporting will support port resilience in terms of the present and future crises and any similar threats,” says Pallis.