Home » Breaking News, Maritime » Box ship calls rebound in Q3—UNCTAD finds

Port calls by container ships rebounded in many parts of the world in the third quarter, hinting at early but uneven signs of global merchandise trade recovery, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) data showed.

Maritime shipping saw a dramatic slowdown earlier this year as the COVID-19 pandemic restricted economic activities and travel. By mid-June, the average number of container vessels arriving weekly at ports worldwide had sunk to 8,722, an 8.5% year-on-year drop.

But new data show that, globally, the average weekly calls have started to recover, rising to 9,265 by early August, just 3% below the levels of one year earlier.

Since most of the world’s manufactured goods are shipped in containers, “the latest containership port call patterns offer a ray of hope for economic recovery from the pandemic,” said Shamika N. Sirimanne, director of UNCTAD’s technology and logistics division.

World merchandise trade suffered a historic year-on-year fall of 27% in the second quarter of this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Globally, container ship arrivals started to fall below 2019 levels around mid-March 2020, coinciding with the World Health Organization’s decision on March 11 to classify COVID-19 as a pandemic.

Port calls started to recover gradually around the third week of June, reflecting the timeline when some countries began easing out of lockdown.

Although most regions have seen some recovery in the third quarter of 2020, both in absolute numbers and compared to 2019 levels, there are important regional differences, UNCTAD said.

For example, weekly container ship port calls in China and Hong Kong had climbed to 4.1% higher than the 2019 numbers by early August, but calls in North America and Europe were still 16.3% and 13.2% below year-ago levels.

“The regional and country trends appear to follow the progress of the pandemic,” UNCTAD said.

The diverging and volatile port call patterns across regions since June 2020 also underscore the fragility of the apparent recovery and the presence of factors beyond the pandemic and lockdown restrictions.

Also exerting their influence on port calls are trade policy changes that affect shipping and ports, ship deployment strategies of carriers, and decisions by shipping alliances.

Meanwhile, container shipping timetables also provide useful information, according to Jan Hoffmann, chief of UNCTAD’s trade logistics branch.

This is because container shipping timetables, which show the deployment of cargo carrying capacity measured in TEUs, reflect shipping lines’ expectations for near future demand.

While container shipments to and from China and the United States have resumed in the third quarter, timetables show a continued decline for many European countries.

Image by WorldInMyEyes from Pixabay


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