Coronavirus Impact at US Ports: Cargo Volume Could Slump 20% or More

Coronavirus Impact at US Ports: Cargo Volume Could Slump 20% or More
March 5, 2020 Aldo Flores
Looking up at large shipping vessel from dock with black text

Over 90-thousand cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19 ) have been confirmed globally, disrupting everything from Italian sporting events to the global supply chain. Cases appear to be slowing down in China, where the virus originated, but have now spread to other parts of world. The American Association of Port Authorities is working to ensure safety as ships head into the U.S., while economic worries begin to mount.

“While the global economic impacts to the port and maritime industry from the Coronavirus outbreak are significant and growing, the human impacts are our greatest concern. Since ports are a nation’s first line of defense against threats ranging from terrorism to pathogens, they take their role seriously about protecting the safety and well-being of their communities,” said Chris Connor, President and CEO of the American association of Port Authorities.

Connor says that U.S. ports are diligently following protocols from federal agencies to contain the virus, minimize exposure, and provide quality medical care to those who contract the Coronavirus. While containing the virus is the main concern, the implications are being felt far beyond the medical field.

“Supply chain disruption is a different issue. The overall economic impact of this type of crisis can easily run into the tens of billions of dollars. Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, cargo volumes at many U.S. ports during the first quarter of 2020 may be down by 20 percent or more compared to 2019. While we haven’t yet heard specifics about the impacts to the cruise travel industry, we echo what the Cruise Lines International Association is saying, which is that while the relative impact to global cruise operations isn’t extensive at this time, we recognize that the impact on even just one person is significant,” said Connor.

Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) doesn’t know the full impact that Coronavirus will have on air freight but estimates airlines will lose billions of dollars even in the best-case scenario.

“The turn of events as a result of COVID-19 is almost without precedent. In little over two months, the industry’s prospects in much of the world have taken a dramatic turn for the worse. It is unclear how the virus will develop, but whether we see the impact contained to a few markets and a $63 billion revenue loss, or a broader impact leading to a $113 billion loss of revenue, this is a crisis, “said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

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