The Impact of Coronavirus on Europe's main ports


The effect of the coronavirus pandemic is felt across Europe. Freight volumes are starting to go down and empty containers are in the wrong place. Shippers, shipping companies, ports, everyone is impacted. Because ships take about six to eight weeks to make the trip from Asia to Europe, there was a delay in the negative effects of the lockdowns in Asia.

The Netherlands: Port of Rotterdam

The Port of Rotterdam, the largest port in Europe, announced today that they expect a drop in port traffic of more than 20%. The first quarter the freight volumes were comparable to the first quarter last year, so the real drop in volume will be in the coming months. 

Allard Castelein, CEO of the Port of Rotterdam Authority: “We are facing unprecedented disruptions and the port of Rotterdam, as a vital process, intends to continue contributing to society. The impact of a decline in demand due to the corona crisis will become clear from April onwards. A 10 to 20% drop in throughput volume on an annual basis would seem to be very likely. This will depend on how long the measures remain in place and on how quickly production and world trade recover”.

For a full overview of the situation in the Port of Rotterdam, please read the full release here.

On Friday, 17 April, starting at 11 a.m., Allard Castelein, the CEO of the Port of Rotterdam Authority, will be discussing the impact of the corona crisis on the port of Rotterdam during a webinar organised by Nieuwsblad Transport.

More information on the webinar can be found here.

Belgium: Port of Antwerp

The Port of Antwerp is reporting similar figures. In the first quarter of 2020 volumes were even 4 percent higher than last year. Port CEO Jacques Vandermeiren said:

“Because of her worldwide connections and a very diverse flow of goods, the port of Antwerp is less dependent on specific markets. The port also has a large storage capacity, which can function as a buffer for the economy. That enables us to support a quick restart of industries and consumption in Belgium, and other parts of Europe.” 

Read the full article (in Dutch) by Belgian newspaper DeMorgen here.

Germany: Port of Hamburg

The port of Hamburg is even reporting a drop in trade volumes of 40 percent. 

“We’re currently bracing for the impact. It will hit us with full force from mid-March,” Axel Mattern, CEO of the Port of Hamburg Marketing, a business association that represents public and private sector entities of the harbour, told Reuters.

This means that China has also become the Achilles heel of the German economy, with the port of Hamburg especially vulnerable. Trade volumes at the port are already down 40% due to the Chinese New Year festivities and a series of unusually heavy storms in February, according to Mattern.

Read more in the article by Reuters here.

The United Kingdom: The Port of Felixstowe

The United Kingdom’s biggest port, Felixstowe, is seeing a big drop in traffic as well, as the large container ships that usually arrive from Asia are now failing to arrive.

Based on the usual number of container vessels visiting the UK's biggest ports like Southampton and Felixstowe, that represents about 30% to 35% of the usual inbound capacity.

Other sources agreed that there had been a significant drop in arrivals, and said that arriving ships were also carrying less cargo than usual.

Read more in the article by the BBC here.

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