BPO Board discusses COVID-19's impact on the port industry

May 20 2020

BPO Board discusses COVID-19's impact on the port industry

Baltic Ports Organization (BPO) held an online Board meeting today, discussing, among other topics, the consequences the coronavirus pandemic had on the port sector. While the beginning of the year records show, that Baltic ports remained largely unaffected, the situation definitely left a mark on the industry.

All Baltic ports remained open throughout the first months of the pandemic and continue to operate to this day, while at the same time smoothly adjusting to the various restrictions introduced by national governments. Additional safety and security measures were introduced swiftly and did not hinder the flow of essential goods, such as pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and foodstuffs.

Implemented measures included splitting ports' docker workforce into separate shift teams, isolated from each other and ensuring that all staff able to do so may work from home. A broader overview of the steps undertaken by Baltic ports can be found in a report prepared by the BPO in cooperation with the editorial team at the Baltic Transport Journal. The report can be accessed directly via the BPO website.

Various countries introduced restrictions, accepted by societies and businesses. These include shutting down borders, except for moving cargo. It is paramount to enable ships and trucks to travel smoothly under the strict measures which have been introduced, while at the same time not compromising the necessary safety regulations.

Kimmo Naski, Chairman, BPO, offered further insights, "On the cargo side, the impact of the pandemic is quite limited but it is huge on passenger traffic. The Baltic ports are looking forward to re-opening of the latter. There are some signs of recovery, e.g. passenger traffic recently resumed between Helsinki and Tallinn last week. Cruise business will be impacted heavily this year and it remains uncertain how it will develop in the coming years. Baltic ports will be ready to restart any activity complying with all measures introduced by governments to secure the health of passengers, smooth cargo transshipment and safety of port workers."

Apart from passenger traffic, containers were the other sector most affected by the current situation, with an overall throughput drop of -6.01% year-on-year among the top 10 Baltic container ports. St. Petersburg remains at the front of the pack (-0.5% yoy). Impact on ro-ro traffic will become clearer in Q2 2020, as the various restrictions caused production closures in many EU countries and a decrease in intra-European trade volumes.

In terms of overall cargo throughput in Q1 2020, in comparison to 2019 records, Baltic ports remained resilient in face of the crisis, registering a slight growth (+0.18% yoy) among the top 10.

Year 2020 will be a difficult period not just for the Baltic Sea region, but ports all over the world. At the same time, the quick and organized response to the pandemic by all of the Baltic ports remains a testament to good planning and incredible commitment by the their respective staffs in the face of recent challenges.