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Suez container traffic -15% due to COVID, Med-wide drop

Monday, 05 October 2020 | 11:00

The Mediterranean continues to see 27% of container traffic transmitting through it of the about 500 shipping services lines in the world. However, COVID-19 has had a sharp impact on this sector as well, as shown by the 15% plunge in container traffic through the Suez Canal. The drop was offset, however, by the transit of ships from other sectors such as oil, which saw an 11% rise, according to a study by SRM, a research center 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 sailing’ – i.e. routes cancelled due to not enough cargo, which at the end of May totalled 2.7 million TEU, equal to 11.6% of the total hold. SRM estimates that 7 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 year to 951 million TEU in 2024 with strong growth in the Mediterranean area given the outlet for Africa of +3.3% and that for the Middle East of +4.5%. On the Suez Canal, the report explains that the drop in traffic was due to factors linked to COVID-19: the drop in cargo carried by the ships and the drop in oil prices, which pushed many container ships to pass around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope and in so doing save toll costs by lengthening the route by about 3,000 nautical miles. Some 52 – 5.1% 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% discount for container ships heading south and from 50% to 70% 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 the BRI strategy as the Mediterranean benchmark port, reached 5.7 million TEU in 2019 thanks to Cosco, thereby becoming 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% of the total, followed by the container segment with 23%, Ro-Ro with 22% and solid bulk with 12% and merchandise at around 5%. In Italy, in the first 6 months of 2020, import-export via sea was impacted by COVID with a 21% drop in value and roughly 11% drop in tonnage. Italy is, however, still the leader in the Short Sea Shipping in the Mediterranea with 246 million tonnes of goods transported, equal to a market share of about 39%.
Source: ANSAMed

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