Editorial

The impact of coronavirus on vessel traffic and the shipping industry

While cruise ship companies have seen activity essentially stop, data from Vesseltracker shows us that maritime traffic in the bulk, container and chemicals industries have proved more resilient

The shipping industry experienced major disruptions in Q1 of 2020 due to both the Coronavirus and the crude oil price crash. As major parts of the global economy shut down, so have pockets of international trade – yet, not all vessel types have experienced the same disruption.

Not all vessel types need a bailout

Our analysis using Vesseltracker shows that cruise ship activity has collapsed in the wake of reduced tourism due to the coronavirus pandemic, with global port calls falling from 900 port calls per week in January to fewer than 100 port calls per week in April, with an overall drop of 35% in total year to date activity compared to 2019.

Other vessel types have fared better than the cruise ship activity but remain at lower levels of activity compared to 2019. We see declines for vehicles roll-on/roll-off (-15%), containers and crude oil (-3%) and bulk (-1%) vessel traffic.

China: how quickly can its vessel activity return to normal?

When will the sector see some relief? We partnered with our sister company, AIR, that pioneered catastrophe modelling since 1987, to shed insight. We project China is past its apex and over four weeks ahead of other countries, so we began to look at how its maritime traffic has recovered using Vesseltracker, the most accurate global shipping database.

The double impact of the coronavirus and the Lunar New Year was felt in Chinese shipping activity. While activity is expected to fall during the holiday, the reduction in container vessel activity was steeper and longer compared to 2019. The full recovery in container vessel activity from the holiday decrease in activity lasted 47 days, compared to 60 days this year.

As the coronavirus spreads globally, global container vessel activity is significantly down from January levels, and the Chinese recovery could provide further guidance on recovery on a global level.

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