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
A new report from the FAO shows that while most fish stocks remain overexploited, the number of stocks subject to overfishing has decreased for the first time in decades. This was announced from FAO HQ in Rome in mid-December. Readers are invited to see the full report here: http://www.fao.org/documents/card/en/c/cb2429en
After decades of increasing human pressures on the Mediterranean and Black Sea marine ecosystems and fisheries resources, the latest data suggest that a corner is finally being turned on overexploitation of the region's vital fish stocks.
According to a new report on the State of Mediterranean and Black Sea Fisheries (SoMFi 2020), released on 14 December, while 75% of fish stocks remain subject to overfishing, this percentage fell by more than 10% between 2014 and 2018. Exploitation ratios are down by a similar proportion. Taking into account newly assessed stocks, the number of fish stocks with high relative biomass has doubled since the last edition published in 2018.
Crew changes are once more becoming difficult as much of the world locks down again following the emergence of several new and more transmissible variants of Covid-19, crew specialist Danica has warned.
With travel corridors being closed and new travel restrictions imposed, airlines are once again cancelling or reducing flights which poses a problem for crew transiting to vessels. It is understood from Danica that ports too, if they have reopened, are imposing greater restrictions.
Henrik Jensen (pictured), Managing Director of Danica Crewing Services, has warned: ‘I believe we may be heading for a new crew change crisis every bit as bad as last spring. Over the past six months crew changes have been possible in many cases, although they have been costly and complex. However, now we are seeing a range of new restrictions and barriers to crew travel while also facing some serious issues in relation to crew health risk factors. I can foresee this impacting heavily on crew changes for the next few months.’
Danica specialises in crew deployment and has been assisting a range of ship operators in order to achieve crew changes over the past year. As a result, the company is fully aware of the latest rules and restrictions and well-placed to notice how they are impacting crewing.
Jensen explained: ‘In response to the rapid increase in infections around the world, governments are imposing new or additional measures including travel restrictions. Although these measures are understandable in the circumstances, based on scientific evidence, and intended to provide protection for their populations, they also cause operational and logistical problems for crew changes.