© Alex Proimos, Wikipédia
The major international ports are not expecting to register falls in activity despite the lockdowns across much of the world due to the coronavirus. Speaking to Eurofresh, Cristina Recio Galiana, of the Port of Algeciras’ in southern Spain, said, “In February, the Port of Algeciras handled a total of 9.991 million tons, which means a 15% increase compared with February 2019. Regarding the present month, March, we do not expect any reduction in volume.”
Algericas is Spain’s second busiest port, with the seventh highest volume of traffic in Europe.
The global airline trade body Iata estimates that the Coronavirus crisis could cost the airfreight industry up to US$113m in lost revenue. This estimate might need to be revised following the recent ban imposed by the US on flights to and from Europe which is likely to significantly cut capacity send rates soaring for the transportation of perishables. When a similar ban was imposed on flights from China in February, there was a 27% rise in airfreight rates between February 24 and March 9, according to the TAC Index. Flight capacity was reduced by over a third.
While cargo-only flights are not subject to the restrictions, most of the airfreight trade between Europe and the US is with passenger aircrafts. In fact, over 60% of the airfreight between Europe and the US is on passenger flights, according to cargo data provider WorldACD,.
The drop in capacity is likely to have a knock-on effect across the globe. Speaking to Fruitnet, Ole Schack Petersen, senior vice-president and chief strategy officer at LCL and Broom Group said, “With fewer planes in the air, it will also affect China-Europe routes. Some fresh produce will have to move ocean freight where possible.” This might lead to more perishables being sent via the UK, which is not subject to the restrictions.
Markets in some areas of the Far East appear to be slowly returning to work, after a major slowdown in the face of the Coronavirus outbreak. Although consumption is starting to recover somewhat, this is still far from being the case across the region, according to Juri Falandt, owner of Dutch company, Milestone. Speaking to FreshPlaza, Falandt said, “It is expected to take at least two to three more weeks before production is at full strength again. However, for now, there is still a huge shortage of truckers. These are needed to transport goods to and from the inland and harbour. Shipping companies have already cancelled many trips employing void sailings. At the moment, it is still reasonably easy to book containers. But, this will become more difficult in the coming weeks. Then, production will reach normal levels. Everyone is going to try and catch up. There will be renewed pressure on rates and space in the coming weeks.”
There are currently an estimated 200,000 reefers stranded in Chinese ports and surrounding countries, according to Seatrade. This represents about 13% of the total number of worldwide reefer containers. There are reports of container ships having to dump their loads or return without unloading because there is nowhere to offload. Seatrade reports that due to the shortage, some companies are currently only able to access 25% of the reefers they require for their goods. “The first tangible structural change is still, at least, eight weeks away. Also, the large container shipping companies have very serious cashflow problems. In an attractive market, they might start charging higher tariffs for their reefers. So, not only will these shortages have long-term repercussions on the market, we can certainly expect these higher prices to continue.”
The volume of freight handled by the Port of Antwerp for the first 9 months of this year totalled 161.67 million tons – a figure up 3.3% on the same period last year.
In a press release, the port said its container volume for January-September saw growth of 4%, exceeding 7.5 million TEU and further expanding Antwerp’s market share for containers in the Hamburg-Le Havre range.
The container volume rose 3.7% to nearly 88.64 million tons. Ro/ro was down 1.9% at just under 3.4 million, while the volume of conventional breakbulk remained practically the same at 7.26 million tons.
“On the down side, increasing containerisation led to a lower conventional volume of paper (down 44.4% to 436,444 tons) and fruit (down 26.5% to 377,418 tons),” the port said.
The number of seagoing ships was up 1%, with the number of calls totalling 10,894 as at October 1.
“Not only was there an increase in the number of ships, there was continuing strong growth in gross tonnage. This rose by 11.3% to 301.66 million GT, demonstrating the trend towards ever larger vessels,” it said.
Photo: Antwerp Port Authority
The port of Antwerp is on track to close 2015 with a total volume of 200 million tons of freight handled after hitting 156.5 million tons in the first nine months of this year, up 5.5% on the same period last year.
In a press release, the Antwerp Port Authority also said there has also been steady growth in the volume of container freight (up 8.0% in TEU and 5.4% in tonnage) and of liquid bulk (up 7.9%).
source: Port of Antwerp
Containers and breakbulk
Expressed in TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units, i.e. standard containers) the port’s container volume was 7.26 million TEU for January-September, 8.0% above that for the same months last year. In terms of tonnage the volume came to 85,478,483 tons (up 5.4%).
It said that despite declining volumes on trading routes to and from the Far East, in Asian trade the port managed to close the first nine months of 2015 with growth of 6.2%.
In conventional breakbulk, the port had handled 7.3 million tons by the end of September. This was a 1.8% drop in volume and something the authority said was due to “the increasing containerisation of fruit and the consequent fall in conventional handling.”
source: Port of Antwerp
Other key figures:
- Ro/ro volume: up 2.5% to 3.46 million tons
- Iron & steel volume: up 2.4% to 4.98 million tons
- No. of cars handled: down 9.7% to 825,312 vehicles
- Liquid bulk volume: up 7.9% to 49.8 million tons
- Oil derivatives: up 4.6% to 35.3 million tons
- Chemicals: up 23.7% to 10.7 million tons
- Dry bulk: up 2.4% to 10.5 million tons
- Sand and gravel: up 27.7% to 1.26 million tons
- Coal: up 12.8% to 1.33 million tons
A total of 10,786 seagoing ships have called at the port of Antwerp in the last nine months, 2.5% more than in the same period last year. The gross tonnage rose 7.7% to 271 million GT.