Impact of Coronavirus Outbreak on Maritime and Air Shipping
The coronavirus outbreak and associated civil and health protection measures may have a serious impact on the EU economy.
The EU Commission and other institutions are closely following developments in different sectors, including tourism, trade, transportation, and manufacturing.
Impact on Sea Transport
According to the International Chamber of Shipping, shipping by container vessels from China has dropped by 1/3 during the last month alone. Companies have already begun to cut the number of vessels sailing from various destinations around the world. This is especially true for China, the second largest economy where major industries have been seriously affected. Keeping factories shut results in reduced demand for container shipping to Europe. The longer and more serious the outbreak is, the more difficult it will be to ship goods by sea. As shutdowns continue, port operations may also be affected, slowing the loading and unloading of containers. Experts also warn that more vessels are expected to be idling as countries refuse to allow them in.
The virus outbreak has seriously affected sea freight in Europe as many factories are operating at reduced capacity. Rotterdam, the largest EU port has reported a decline in sailings, especially for ships from Asia. Blanked sailings continued to increase during the last couple of months. Taking into account large distances and sailing times, EU Member States will face more serious shortages in March and onwards.
A number of carriers have reduced flights, among which British Airways, Wizz Air, Norwegian Air, and EasyJet. This has resulted in mail slowdown on a global scale. Many national postal services have reported mailing problems because of the outbreak. Among them are Posta Serbia, Posta Romania, Hellenic Post, Post Denmark, Swiss Post, and others.
Initial estimates suggest that air cargo shrunk by 9 percent in February compared to February, 2019. Airports have a good loading capacity, however, which can be explained with reduced demand for air travel.
According to Ursula von der Leyen, EC president, the aviation industry will be seriously affected. Air traffic volumes are expected to plummet further. Many airlines are flying almost empty planes just not to lose their airport slots. One problem is that passenger planes typically carry an additional 50 percent of cargo. If more and more flights are being cancelled, this will also affect cargo shipping. Given the rapid spread of Covid-19 and the rise of coronavirus cases in Europe, it is difficult for airlines to plan and adapt.
Reduced air and maritime cargo have already resulted in supply chain disruptions. Additional factors come into play in relation to supply chain problems, including backlog of material, delay in production, and the fact that major manufacturers are isolated due to quarantine measures. Logistics services providers make all efforts to expedite key shipments because European manufacturers already face supply shortages. With Italy being subject to quarantine, manufacturers already experience parts stock shortages and are forced to operate at reduced capacity. Many hope that the coronavirus will be swiftly brought under control and things go back to normal.