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Effects of COVID-19 on exports and port movements in Latin America and the Caribbean

14 de abril de 2020|Nota informativa

In the last few months, the world has witnessed and continue to witness a drastic change in our daily lives, which has also caused great impacts on business, trade, and shipping. The outbreak of a pandemic changed all economic and trade expectations for 2020. From a forecast of 3.6% growth in container trade worldwide in the last quarter of 2019, to 2.5% in January 2020, new projections have lowered down expectations to -4.9%. This drop is partially explained, apart from the pandemic, by the continuing increase of blank sails[1] and labour restrictions.

Several countries have been implementing restrictive measures on ports and harbours aiming at curbing the spread of COVID-19. At the beginning, measures were adopted by some Asian ports and targeted shipping operations with the city of Wuhan. Following the rapid escalation of the pandemic, however, restrictions have been gradually expanded in geographic coverage and scope. Currently, they usually include more rigorous inspections and a closer articulation of port and maritime organizations with National Health Authorities, with specific control and quarantine procedures for vessels whose previous ports of call are based in countries registering the largest number of cases of COVID-19.  Non-essential operations have been limited and, in most countries, severe measures have been adopted towards cruise ships, some of which have been denied docking at ports and have been left stranded at sea.

The short-term impact of this health crisis is a major blow not only to the port sector, but to logistics worldwide. According to some international analysts, the impact is expected to be manageable in the medium term —if the spread of the virus is contained. As trade facilitators, ports and their personnel are highly exposed to events beyond their control. Ports plays an essential role during this critical moment, because food, cargoes, including those with life-saving supplies, cannot arrive to where they are needed if ports are not operational. In this sense, this document  analyses two main topics: first, the impacts of COVID-19 on grain and minerals exports in Latin America; secondly, the effects and the behaviour of the main container ports in the region during the first trimester of 2020 in comparison to 2019; a brief review of measures, impacts and reflections are added in the third part of this document.

 

[1] Blank sailings mean that, for one specific week, fortnight or month (depending on the frequency of the liner service), that area will not have a vessel to discharge or load cargo.