Suez container traffic falls 15pc on Covid despite discounts

COVID-19 has resulted in a 15 per cent plunge in container traffic through the Suez Canal, reports Rome's ANSA (Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata)

05 October 2020 - 19:00
COVID-19 has resulted in a 15 per cent plunge in container traffic through the Suez Canal, reports Rome's ANSA (Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata).

The drop was offset by the transit of ships from other sectors such as oil, which saw an 11 per cent rise, according to a study by SRM, a research centre from the Intesa San Paolo group that presented during the Naples Shipping Week.

The 'Italian Maritime Economy' study looks at the entire sea and among the effects of the pandemic it cites the frequent blank sailings, which at the end of May totalled 2.7 million TEU, equal to 11.6 per cent of the total. SRM estimates that seven million TEU were lost at the international level in 2020.

Forecasts show container traffic at the global level, however, to rise an average of 3.5 per cent per year to 951 million TEU in 2024 with strong growth in the Mediterranean area given the outlet for Africa of +3.3 per cent and that for the Middle East of +4.5 per cent.

On the Suez Canal, the report explains that the drop in traffic was due to factors linked to Covid: the drop in cargo carried by the ships and the drop in oil prices, which pushed many containerships to use Africa's Cape of Good Hope.

Some 52 - 5.1 per cent of the total - large ships opted for this route in the March-June 2020 period. The Suez Canal Port Authority reacted by bringing in a 17 per cent discount for containerships heading south and from 50 to 70 per cent discount for the US east coast-South Asia and South East Asia routes to encourage shipping companies not to opt for the longer route to save on toll costs.

Among ports, the study found that Greece's Piraeus, which was selected by China's belt and road strategy as its Mediterranean port reached 5.7 million TEU in 2019 thanks to Cosco.

Thus, Piraeus became the top Med area port for containers, followed by Spain's Valencia with 5.4 million and Algeciras with 5.1 million. The Italian ports of Genoa and Gioia Tauro were in 8th and 9th place with 2.6 million and 2.5 million.

On the issue of Italian ports, the study found that traffic was stable in the past five years with around 480-490 million tons of cargo that transited every year.

Liquid bulk accounted for 37 per cent of the total, followed by the container segment with 23 per cent, ro-ro with 22 per cent and solid bulk with 12 per cent and merchandise at around five per cent.

In Italy, in the first six months of 2020, import-export via sea was impacted by Covid with a 21 per cent drop in value and roughly 11 per cent drop in tonnage. Italy is, however, still the leader in short sea shipping in the Mediterranean with 246 million tonnes of goods transported, equal to a market share of about 39 per cent.

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