In the last few months, the world has witnessed and continues to witness a drastic change in our daily lives, which has also caused a great impact on business, trade, and shipping. The outbreak of a pandemic changed all economic and trade expectations for 2020. From a forecast of 3.6% growth in container trade worldwide in the last quarter of 2019, to 2.5% in January 2020, new projections have lowered down expectations to -4.9%. This drop is partially explained, apart from the pandemic, by the continuing increase of blank sails and labour restrictions.
Several countries have been implementing restrictive measures on ports and harbours aiming at curbing the spread of COVID-19. At the beginning, measures were adopted by some Asian ports and targeted shipping operations with the city of Wuhan. Following the rapid escalation of the pandemic, however, restrictions have been gradually expanded in geographic coverage and scope. Currently, more rigorous inspections and a closer articulation of port and maritime organizations with National Health Authorities have been implemented with specific control and quarantine procedures for vessels whose previous ports of call were in countries registering the largest number of cases of COVID-19. Non-essential operations have been limited and, in most countries, severe measures have been adopted towards cruise ships, some of which have been denied docking at ports and have been left stranded at sea.
The short-term impact of this health crisis is a major blow not only to the port sector, but to logistics worldwide. According to some international analysts, the impact is expected to be manageable in the medium term —if the spread of the virus is contained, as trade facilitators, ports and their personnel are highly exposed to events beyond their control. Ports play an essential role during this critical moment because food, cargoes, including those with life-saving supplies, cannot arrive to where they are needed if ports are not operational.
PortEconomics member Ricardo Sanchez along with Eliana Barleta analyse the behaviour of the main container ports in the region of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) during the first trimester of 2020 in comparison to 2019; a brief review of measures, impact and reflections are added in the second part of this document.
Ricardo’s and Eliana’s report can be freely downloaded here.