Freight News, Sea

Pandemic hits port traffic for six

[ September 9, 2020   //   ]

Department for Transport port freight statistics for the second quarter of 2020, released on 9 September, show a dramatic fall in traffic, says the British Ports Association (BPA).

In April to June 2020, total traffic decreased 18% to 96.1 million tonnes compared with the same three months in 2019, while unitised traffic ( containers, trucks and trailers), fell 44% to 3.2 million units

BPA said that the figures confirmed that the pandemic had “brought severe disruption to trade flows and demand in the economy”.

Policy and economic analyst, Phoebe Warneford-Thomson, said that the fall in unitised traffic is not surprising, as containers and freight carried by trucks are a good barometer of the overall economy. It reflected a decline in finished goods bound for the high street as well as raw materials for manufacturing, both of which largely suspended operations during the lockdown.

However, ports have continued to supply the country with essentials during the pandemic, including supermarket goods, medical products and PPE. Furthermore, certain areas, such as timber goods for DIY in homes and gardens performed well, along with items such as toilet rolls.

BPA added that in the months since June, for which there are not yet official figures, ports have maintained resilience, saying: “While trade flows may not be at 100% levels, we are seeing some return to normality.”

Previous analysis by the BPA indicated that ports may be increasingly busy approaching the end of the transition period. In the fourth quarter of 2018, approaching the original Brexit deadline of 29 March 2019, UK ports saw a 6% growth in tonnage as UK manufacturers stockpiled inventory ahead of expected disruptions. It has been suggested that any reserves that might have been accrued then have now been used as a result of the pandemic.

With looming recession, the ongoing pandemic, pinch-points in trade talks and the looming possibility of no-deal, international trade flows into Britain may be set further disruption, BPA adds.