European ports hit most by cargo vessel call reductions

European ports hit most by cargo vessel call reductions
The majority of European ports have seen a decrease in vessel calls

Many European ports are feeling a greater impact of reduced cargo vessel calls than other regions of the world according to a study from the WPSP-IAPH World Ports COVID19 Task Force, set up by the International Association of Ports and Harbours (IAPH).

The European region also has a smaller share of ports now facing capacity shortages of warehousing and storage facilities with a progressive overall decline in utilisation being reported over the time period.

It appears that the European region is slightly more impacted by shortages of dockworkers, with 28% reporting this occurrence during the recent week, added the report.

Despite the impact of vessel calls increasing across the board, almost all of the 76 ports taking part in survey are reporting a 5 to 25% decrease.

The share of ports facing significant decreases (in excess of a 25% drop) fell sharply from 10-11% in the previous two weeks to less than 2% this week.

The situation for the other cargo vessels has remained fairly unchanged compared to last week. The number of ports reporting reductions of more than 25% remained at a level of 12-14% throughout weeks 16 to 19.

Co-author Professor Thanos Pallis commented: “The general loss of cargo for containers is probably less evident than expected, as April has closed with negative year-on-year figures that are much better than initially forecasted.

“The decrease in the number of container vessels is not always directly related to the COVID-19 crisis. Some report on the increase in blank sailings, mainly on the Europe-Far East routes, for others there are no more blank sailings registered but total calls are still down some 20% with respect to a normal fully operational week.”

He continued: “Regional feeders in substitution of calls by mega vessels are working well, but shippers do not always welcome the longer transit times associated with transhipment.”

Co-author Professor Theo Notteboom said: “In the coming weeks, several of the larger ports anticipate significant downturns in volumes due to blank sailings in the container segment.

“We expect these larger hubs to be impacted the most. Nonetheless, how much impact this will have on the global supply chain and how quickly economies will restart, especially in Europe, will require close monitoring.”

About 12% of the ports surveyed report delays (6-24 hours) or heavy delays (more than 24 hours) in cross-border road transportation with 6% of the ports indicating that cross-border trucking has been discontinued.

Although this is a minor improvement compared to last week, the situation remains precarious for a number of ports, noted the report.

In some cases, ports have sought to alleviate congestion at the quayside caused by increased controls on trucks and truckers at borders by evacuating import containers en masse by rail, either to hinterland depots or to staging locations closer to the border away from the port.

For example, to facilitate improved quayside operations on the East African coast, inland rail services transporting up to several thousand boxes improves cross-border transit with landlocked countries.

Kenya Ports Authority head of corporate affairs and member of the WPSP COVID19 Task Force Bernard Osero stated: “Every day, we dispatch 10 trains from Mombasa carrying hinterland-destined cargo to Nairobi depot, 500 km away. This is about 1,000 teu a day.

“In addition, from this week, we have opened a special service directly from Mombasa to Naivasha depot 650 km away from Mombasa and 400 km from the border, specifically for transit traffic. This is an average of 100 teu and it is expected to increase.”