Worldwide there are approximately 3,000 merchant ports and the work of the Harbour Master can vary widely from country to country and from port to port even within the same country.
On 12 November from Geneva UNCTAD issued its Review of Maritime Transport 2020. The document may be downloaded here: https://unctad.org/system/files/official-document/rmt2020_en.pdf
Review of Maritime Transport 2020 provides an update on the latest trends in maritime trade, supply, markets, key performance indicators, and legal and regulatory developments. It also includes a special chapter with testimonials from maritime stakeholders and their experiences in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the global interdependency of nations and set in motion new trends that will reshape the maritime transport landscape.
UNCTAD reports that the sector is at a pivotal moment facing not only immediate concerns resulting from the pandemic but also longer-term considerations, ranging from shifts in supply-chain design and globalization patterns to changes in consumption and spending habits, a growing focus on risk assessment and resilience-building, as well as a heightened global sustainability and low-carbon agenda. The sector is also dealing with the knock-on effects of growing trade protectionism and inward-looking policies.
The pandemic has brought to the fore the importance of maritime transport as an essential sector for the continued delivery of critical supplies and global trade in time of crisis, during the recovery stage and when resuming normality.
Many organizations, including UNCTAD and other international bodies, issued recommendations and guidance emphasizing the need to ensure business continuity in the sector, while protecting port workers and seafarers from the pandemic. They underscored the need for ships to meet international requirements, including sanitary restrictions, and for ports to remain open for shipping and intermodal transport operations.
Impact of COVID-19 in Africa
Here the UNCTAD media staff have done a good job outlining the Review’s findings with an African slant. This is most praiseworthy.
COVID-19 has negatively impacted Africa. In the second quarter of 2020, UNCTAD estimated the drop in Africa’s exports at -35% and the drop in imports at -25%. By July 2020, there were some improvements, but numbers still pointed to double-digit drops of -17% for imports and -21% exports.
Ship calls down
By late June 2020, the drop in the number of ship calls in Sub-Saharan Africa stood at -9.7% while the drop in container ship calls stood at -12.7%. The impact on bulk shipping was less pronounced. Port calls by dry bulk carriers declined by 7.7% while calls by wet bulk carriers was less affected, falling by 1.4 % only.
African ports have shown mixed trends in terms of impact on connectivity. In three African ports (Lagos, Durban, TangerMed), for example, connectivity levels were found to have coped well with the pandemic compared with other ports in the region, despite blank sailings negatively impacting service frequency.
Restrictions affecting inland transportation have created some challenges to cross-border crossings. For example, in some African countries, the time taken to pick up cargo after customs release increased in 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.
Trucks took longer times to return to their departure points due to the restrictions imposed to contain the pandemic. Such disruptions led also to delays in the return of empty containers to the ports (e.g. port Mombasa), which often led to retention charges set by shipping lines.
Like in other regions, digitalization is recognized as key to navigating the COVID-19 crisis, hence capacity-building in this area is required. However, a “readiness gap” in the maritime sector’s automation and technology levels puts African countries at a disadvantage.
Maritime transport in Africa needs to address challenges facing innovation and technology, infrastructure quality, regulation and governance, human capital and skills, as well as business and investment.
Addressing sustainability concerns is an important agenda item at the global level and Africa’s maritime sector should improve its ability to align activities with sustainability goals and principles as well as build the resilience of its infrastructure, services and operations.
Achieving the 2050 greenhouse gases’ emissions targets set out by the IMO is critical, and countries, including in Africa, have an important role to play in enforcing IMO rules as a way of minimizing climate change impacts on the sector.
Demand (merchandise trade, maritime cargo): key trends in seaborne trade and port cargo traffic
While about one-third of African countries are landlocked, maritime transport remains the main gateway to the global marketplace. Africa’s international trade relies heavily on shipping and ports.
Value and volume considered
Africa accounts for a small share of world merchandise trade by value: about 2.5% of exports and 3% of imports in 2020. In terms of volumes, however, and based on maritime trade data estimated by UNCTAD, Africa contributes relatively larger shares to globalized maritime trade. In 2019, African ports loaded close to 7% of world maritime trade (exported) and unloaded 4.6% of this trade (imported). These contributing shares, however, remain below those of developing Asian and American regions.
The marginal relative contribution of Africa to maritime trade is also observed when looking at its share of developing countries’ maritime trade. In 2019, Africa accounted for about 12% of the volumes loaded in developing countries and 7% of the unloaded ones. The dominant shares were held by developing Asia, followed by developing Americas (Latin America and the Caribbean).
Africa’s contribution to world trade
The contribution of Africa to maritime trade flows is marginal unlike Asia, which has benefited from its greater integration into global manufacturing and trading networks, promoting intraregional trade. Maritime trade in Africa continues to be shaped by the continent’s trade concentration and limited diversification. Accordingly, about half of the goods exported by sea in 2019 composed of tanker trade, while over two-thirds of imports consisted of dry cargoes (dry bulks and containerized goods).
Africa’s container ports accounted for a modest share of about 4% of global containerized trade volume, much of which comprised imports of manufactured goods.
Targeted trade and industrial policy measures and regional integration initiatives such as the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) have the potential to enhance Africa’s containerized trade flows.
Shipping fleet developments, connectivity and port performance
Participation in the supply of shipping services remains an ambition in Africa, as the continent’s ownership of the world fleet is limited, with only Nigeria to be featured among the top 35 owning nations, with a share of 0.31% in deadweight tonnage as of 1 January 2020.
Only Liberia makes the list of top flag states, ranking second globally after Panama in terms of deadweight capacity and third after Panama and Marshall Islands in terms of the value of the fleet. As of 1 January 2020, Liberia had increased the ship-carrying capacity registered under its flag by 13% and accounted for 13% of the total world deadweight.
At the corners; sub-regional load centres
African countries’ shipping connectivity is strongly influenced by their geography. The best-connected countries are those at the continent’s corners, where international shipping routes connect to hub ports, notably in Morocco, Egypt and South Africa. They are followed by sub-regional load centres, notably Djibouti, Togo and Mauritius. The top five African ports on UNCTAD’s liner shipping connectivity index (LSCI) during from the first quarter of 2006 to the third quarter of 2020 are presented in the figure here.
Ports’ intraregional connections
Like in other regions, ports in Africa tend to be generally more connected to each other. These intraregional connections do not necessarily carry trade between neighbouring ports, but the high connectivity is the result of being connected to the same overseas routes, in combination with feeder and trans-shipment services.
For example, Durban and Cape Town in South Africa are connected to each other by services provided by twelve companies. In Angola, Luanda is most connected to Cape Town, South Africa with seven companies, while Mombasa, Kenya is most connected to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania through direct services by ten companies. By comparison, there are only six companies that connect Mombasa, Kenya with Ningbo, China. The connectivity level of Tanger Med, Morocco is highest with Algeciras and Valencia in Spain, through services provided by nine liner companies.
Five of the bottom ten countries ranked according to their port performance (as measured by average port hours weighted by the size of vessels) are located in Africa. The continent requires improved infrastructure and implementation of requisite port and trade facilitation reforms that can help ports in the region to handle the ever-growing demand effectively.
The pie-chart shows sub-regional participation in Africa’s maritime trade, 2019.
Top five African ports, first quarter 2006 to third quarter 2020
In the UK the results of a recent Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT; see: CILT Home (ciltuk.org.uk) ) survey investigating the preparedness of Institute members ahead of the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020, reveals that a clear majority of members are concerned about the UK’s transition period coming to an end.
It is understood that the results show that 82% of CILT members who are involved in the movement of goods in and out of the EU are concerned (44% of them greatly concerned) about the transition period ending at the end of the year.
CILT stated that it is pleased to see 79% of respondents believe their organisation is at least moderately prepared for the end of the transition period. However, alarmingly, 31% of respondents told CILT they had made little or no progress with regards to EU exit preparations since the start of the year, although 77% of those questioned have made or are planning to make changes to their supply chain operations before 31 December.
Many respondents believe their organisation understands the key requirements for what needs to be done as a third-party country exporting or importing with the EU. However, members commented on feeling increasingly concerned over the lack of clarity that remains as the nation approaches the end of the transition period. Respondents also raised concerns about how imports from Northern Ireland will be handled.
As the UK Government launched the Freeports competitive bidding process towards the end of November DP World and Forth Ports advanced their bid for a Thames Freeport with London Gateway, the Port of Tilbury and Ford’s Dagenham engine plant at its heart.
Backed by the City Corporation of London, Essex Chamber of Commerce, London First, the Port of London Authority, the Thames Estuary Growth Board, Thurrock Council and the South East LEP, a Thames Freeport will, it is reported, drive innovation and transformational productivity gains by growing regional clusters in next generation logistics, automation, clean growth and advanced manufacturing. Vivid Economics is providing economic analysis in support of the bid, it is understood.
With a network of global and European shipping connections, excellent road, rail and river distribution networks, in addition to unrivalled first hand expertise in operating freeports, the Thurrock-based combined port and logistics cluster has the scale to grow the associated aerospace, automotive and many complex manufacturing and processing businesses along the Thames. This was the substance of a media release issued by Forth Ports and DP World.
The joint communiqué advised that a freeport will act as a job creation and high-quality development catalyst in an area of severe deprivation and economic need.
Both London Gateway and Tilbury ports have consented development land that is available for expansion now, with the aim to improve the opportunities for skilled jobs, bringing prosperity to the residents of Thurrock and beyond.
In the words of Alan Shaoul, DP World UK’s Chief Financial Officer: ‘Freeports will be an effective way of underpinning Britain’s economy post-Brexit and post-Covid by further enabling trade with the rest of the world and creating zones which will act as catalysts for commerce, creativity and prosperity.’