Heavy traffic conditions are expected to form at dozens of ports in Europe and the US, including Greece's Piraeus. The large spike in containers being transported, has been brought about by the fact that factories in Asian went back to work a few weeks ago, and are now sending goods to markets abroad.
According to shipping analysts, the first ships began receiving the above container shipments in early March and now (three weeks after) are heading to ports for delivery. These are orders that were submitted before factories in China and other Asian countries were closed and are being carried out as production resumes.
However, meanwhile, and specifically in the last 10 - 15 days, economic conditions have changed dramatically in Europe and the US, with consumer demand dropping dramatically and the majority of stores shutting down. This led to buyers of Asian factory products, retailers, canceling many orders.
This means that a significant volume of cargo en route to Western countries has now been abandoned on vessels. Already, based on the percentage of blank sailings announced for both 2M shipping alliance and THE Alliance (whose ships also visit Piraeus), 21 percent of their cargo runs from Asia to Europe scheduled for the second quarter of the year are expected to be cancelled.
"Based on the terms of purchase, buyers will generally have to take over their management as soon as they arrive at the port of destination," said James Hookham, Secretary-General of Global Shippers Forum, one of the largest international representatives of import/export companies.
This is a special term, which has already raised fears of a large back up of unwanted containers piling up in ports. This may force port managers to take measures, such as increasing storage costs or changing the terms of service to speed up the processing of containers once they are unloaded from a vessel.
Meanwhile, other transportation problems are arising on national highways amidst a lack of vehicles, and mainly drivers, particularly for the next 2-4 weeks, due to transport restrictions imposed in nearly all countries.
These restrictions have delayed many truck routes, while in other cases drivers have been forced into quarantine for 14 days due to coronavirus symptoms or having come in contact with such cases. Importers will find it difficult to find a way to pick up containers they have ordered (if they do not want to return them), or to efficiently manage existing stock in the country their container is located in.