Customs|International Transport|Storage

Shipping in pandemic (I): blank sailing and high freight charges

Maritime transport, and consequently the flow of containers, has been severely disrupted by the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. First because of the closing of China, and then because of the extension of the measures to contain the contagion that were taken in Western countries. In this context, many shipping companies decided to cancel some schedules and even some services. This is known as blank sailing and implies a reduction in the supply of services due to the impossibility of filling the ships, which leads to fewer departures and longer trips.

Another of the effects of the global pandemic in shipping has been the accumulation of empty containers in the main port areas of Europe and the United States, while in China there was a shortage of equipment. A situation that, although it has been solved, has caused an increase in maritime freight rates to previously unseen limits. According to the Shanghai Containerized Freight Index (SCFI), the freight rate per TEU reached 1,938.32 dollars last November. A few days earlier, the World Container Index (WCI) put the import FEU at 2,834.73 dollars.

Since the beginning of the health crisis, at Operinter, as an integral logistics operator on a global scale, we have not stopped working. We have always offered the best logistics by sea, even though the circumstances were infinitely different. The pandemic has been and continues to be a real challenge for any logistics operator.

Chinese New Year, a great hope

On the other hand, the main shipping lines are hoping for the usual relaxation of production in China as a result of its New Year. This holiday, which will be celebrated from 12 February, could allow the return of large volumes of empty containers. Many operators are hoping to rebalance flows in order to release goods pending export from the Asian giant.

Traffic resistance in Antwerp and Algeciras

However, in spite of the negative consequences that COVID-19 has had on maritime transport, with generalised decreases in containerised goods during 2020, the good data from the ports of Antwerp (Holland) and Algeciras (Spain) stand out as they have shown greater resistance to the crisis. In the case of the Andalusian port, it only recorded a decrease of 1.9% compared with 2019, managing to move more than 5 million TEUs in 2020 and 107.3 million tonnes.

With regard to the port of Antwerp, it closed last year with container traffic which, for the first time, exceeded 12 million TEUs handled. A figure which has meant a growth of 1.3% compared to that recorded in 2019 and has enabled the precinct to consolidate its second position in the European ranking, only behind Rotterdam.

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