2020 should be a record year for the cruise industry with 32 million expected passengers, almost double the 2009 numbers of 17.8 million. But unfortunately, the world was hit by the novel coronavirus, and things went downhill, putting the cruise industry in an unprecedented crisis.
As per research: 54 reported infected ships and 2.592 ill crew members and passengers worldwide. 65 people died aboard cruise ships as matters spiraled out of control. Following this, ships were placed on stasis one by one, crewed by minimum possible staff. The now superfluous staff members were sent home on chartered planes, mass bookings, and even aboard cruise ships while the world struggled with convoluted and sometimes closed border crossings.
The cruise industry is remarkably resilient and has endured and overcome many challenges. The new coronavirus, however, has been different. Governments issued advisories against the cruise industry, with some experts calling ships viral incubators and that the industry needs to be shut down. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, issued a direct statement of avoiding cruises on an NBC telecast. There have been indicative signs of industry slowdown, from the prediction of industry experts to shipbreaking yards receiving an increasing number of cruise ships.
Building up of the storm
On March 4th, 2020, the German Federal Government stated an increased risk of infection aboard cruise ships. On March 14th, the CDC of the US issued a no sail order for 30 days. Ships were left fully staffed by the liners, with the intent of salvaging the remaining summer season. On April 9th, 2020, the CDC extended this order for 100 days, prompting drastic and quick revaluation by the shipping industries to survive, leading to loitering ships with minimal staff. The Foreign Commonwealth Office of Britain also recommended no traveling on cruises on July 9th, 2020.
Spreader events aboard the ships started to surface, such as the infamous DIAMOND PRINCESS. Crew unpreparedness led to the mingling of infected and healthy passengers, resulting in more than 700 crew and passengers testing positive and the death of 8. Another case, the RUBY PRINCESS, where 2.700 passengers were released without quarantine or tests, later resulted in more than 900 infected and 28 dead. Such events saturated the media, causing an effect similar to what the 9/11 attacks had on the airline industry; causing unpleasant associations with ships in the minds of people.
National governments around the world put the safety of their citizens above foreign nationals. Ports refused to accept cruise ships. Australia banned cruise ships from arriving on March 15th, 2020, and on March 27th, the country directed all foreign vessels to leave the ports.
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the question of who is and isn’t designated a “key worker” has been a difficult debate, with many arguing that essential services go far, far beyond those provided by doctors and nurses. Although the UK government now officially recognizes seafarers as key workers, it’s arguable that the general public has little idea of the contributions made by these workers to the ongoing maintenance of the supply chain.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unparalleled impact on global mobility – on land, at sea and in the air. The severe restrictions on human movements, changes in consumption and the economic impact of lockdowns and reduced demand due to increased unemployment or short-time working hit the global economy hard, though with greatly differing impacts on national economies. So how has the pandemic affected maritime logistics?
As speed to market is currently critical in tackling the pandemic, COVID-19 vaccines are only shipped by air at the moment. In the future, delivery by sea may become a viable alternative. We show the potential that shipping the vaccine by sea holds.
“Ninety percent of everything” was how Rose George titled her 2013 book on the shipping industry. That is how important the world’s merchant fleet is to global trade. Yet when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, politicians the world over were seemingly unaware of the significance of cargo-ship crews’ work. Unlike cross-border lorry drivers, airline pilots, and cabin crew, seafarers were not designated as key workers – with tragic consequences for the sailors and their families in countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, and India.
Stranded at sea
The travel restrictions imposed by governments around the world have made crew changes and repatriation of seafarers massively difficult. The result has been a humanitarian crisis of unheard-of proportions – and one made worse by a widespread lack of interest in the seafarers’ plight. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) estimates that around 400,000 seafarers were stranded on their ships in December 2020 – unable to make their way home and many months past the end of their original contracts. A similar number of seafarers were stuck at home, prevented from joining their ships and earning much-needed money to support their families in countries without welfare networks.
At the beginning of 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic has claimed over two Million lives and continues to spread throughout the world. While the health crisis grew, the virus also infected economies and supply chains. Official statistics in developed countries such as Germany capture well the impact of lockdown measures on retail sales or disruption in global trade on national imports.
These official statistics, however, tend to be published with a time lag of several months and even longer for developing countries in the global South. To provide policymakers with more recent information on economic activity, the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel) published the Corona Data Monitor in 2020 using unconventional, but high-frequent data. For instance, economist Vincent Stamer contributes to the data monitor by analyzing daily API data from FleetMon. Comparing historic ship activity in the Red Sea and the Suez Canal to today’s activity measures the impact of the Corona crisis on the key East Asia – Europe trade route. For more information, please visit the Corona Crisis Data Monitor on the website of the IfW Kiel.
In a recent study sponsored by the German Federal Foreign Office, a project team of the Kiel Institute replicated the concept of the Data Monitor and applied it to various data sources on developing countries. To measure the impact of the pandemic on countries in the global South, the authors used data on nitrogen gas emissions, light emissions, and flight arrivals, as well as AIS data on container ships provided by FleetMon.
Boris Johnson’s winning election slogan, “Get Brexit done”, is now reality. But is Brexit really done? And how will it impact ports and supply chains?
Spot the famous White Cliffs of Dover in the distance? This was a sight at least 10,000 lorry drivers waited many days to see around Christmas 2020. They were stuck in massive queues on the motorway to Dover or forced to park at Manston Airport far from the port. Some ended up spending Christmas in their lorries before they could cross the Channel. What went wrong? Britain’s Health Minister, Matt Hancock, had issued a panicky statement on the new corona virus mutation (“We’ve lost control!”) and many countries closed their borders to road, rail and air travellers from Britain. France shut the Port of Calais and the Eurotunnel. Was the resultant chaos a foretaste of Brexit’s impact on ports and European supply chains?
Cruise ships became the first hot-spots of the deadly Coronavirus, with luxury yachts and mega cruises turning into large quarantine centers. FleetMon reported on the developments since the beginning of the pandemic. Governments all around the world resorted to imposing a strict ‘No Cruise’ ban.
With COVID-19 impacting all sectors of the economy, the cruise industry has been particularly brought to its knees.
With the figures we’re going to show you now, it becomes apparent that the sheer scale of this global shutdown is unlike something the industry has ever witnessed, easily dwarfing global events like 9/11 or stock market crashes.
Hardly any other industry has been hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic. As the coronavirus spread in the winter months – traditionally a most popular time for sun-seeking senior citizens from the Northern Hemisphere – cruise ship passengers were infected in their thousands. Ships were refused entry in port after port and cruises abruptly cancelled to offload passengers fast. All upcoming cruises were cancelled and since March, the cruise industry has been in 100% lockdown. This blog looks at the situation in July 2020 and what the future might hold.
The initiative belongs to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Goodwill Maritime Ambassador for Bulgaria Capt. Andriyan Evtimov.
The purpose is to have the document signed online by at least 150,000 people – the same number of seafarers blocked by theCOVID-19 and then send it to the IMO member-state governments with an appeal for immediate and urgent measures to facilitate the movement of seafaring personnel.