In 2019, world maritime trade in containers reached 160.5 million TEUs, with a world fleet capacity of just over 23.2 million TEUs, according to data handled by the consulting firm Alphaliner. In a scenario of global crisis caused by the epidemic of COVID-19, many experts suggest that currently the rates have not collapsed because of the large amount of inactive fleet that is around 2.5 million TEUs. That means more and more cases of ships at anchor on standby or in hibernation around the world.
It could therefore be said that the coronavirus has become a problem for the shipping industry, which has been forced to cancel calls and reduce capacity on routes. The health crisis began to have its first effects in Asia, so that one out of every two departures from there to northern Europe were cancelled due to the spread of the virus as early as February.
The inactivity of the ships requires regular maintenance, because if this is not done, problems may arise when the ship starts to sail. It should also be added that to date, the replacement of crews has proved to be very complex (due to travel restrictions) which means more tired crews, and therefore a greater risk of human error.
The Suez Canal (Egypt) recently announced that those shipping companies specializing in the transport of vehicles leaving or returning from ports in north-western Europe, and heading to Singapore and Far East ports, will receive a discount on their tolls. This measure will be extended until 30 September, and for this purpose, car-carriers will not be able to make intermediate stops. This is the last measure that has been taken to avoid the escape of ships that do not want to assume the high price of crossing the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, and conversely, in a context where marine fuels are kept at abnormally low prices.
The option of transiting the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa) means adding some 6,000 kilometres to the route between the Far East and the Atlantic, but also savings of between 500,000 and 900,000 for a medium or large container ship crossing at half or full load.