Ebola Impact On Container Shipping


In this issue, we republish, for the information of our members and partners, an analysis published in SeaIntel’s Sunday Spotlight of October 19, 2014 – Issue 183, on theimpact of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) on container shipment within the West African sub-region and the measures that have been adopted by various port authorities across the West African sub-region. We limit our republication to the current situation (with a few updates), port reactions and carrier reactions. The entire piece can be read onhttp://www.seaintel.com

The Ebola outbreak has so far not had any significant impact on container shipping in West Africa. The main challenges in Africa continue to be congestion and poor infrastructure connections from the ports to their hinterlands.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa was reported for the first time in March this year and since then the WHO official death toll has increased to nearly 5000.  The world has now begun to put a higher priority on the situation in West Africa. Some of the more recent developments include the EU deciding to establish an air bridge to get aid into the most affected countries as quickly as possible, and the US and UK deploying troops to build healthcare infrastructure in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

So while the current Ebola Virus outbreak has already had devastating effects on West Africa, and could potentially lead to a global pandemic, we will in this issue of the Sunday Spotlight take a very narrow focus, and look at whether the Ebola outbreak in West Africa affected operations within the container shipping industry?

In this analysis we focus on the reactions we have witnessed from carriers and ports and see how this has affected overall container shipping operations in the region.

The Current Situation: As at October 30, the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) in their External Situation Report writes that “There have been 13,703 cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD), with 4,920 deaths, and suspected cases of EVD have been reported in six affected countries (Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Spain, and the United States of America) and two previously affected countries (Nigeria and Senegal).”In the same report, WHO Assistant Executive Director Dr. Bruce Aylward said that there had been a drop in the number of burials in Liberia and no increases in laboratory-confirmed cases. He cautioned that it was premature to draw conclusions, but appeared to be optimistic that the global effort to combat the outbreak was making headway.

The EVD outbreak in Sierra Leone is now present in all 14 of the country’s districts. In the past few weeks, a surge in transmission has been taking place in the Western area, including the capital Freetown. It is now the district with the highest prevalence of cases (1,001).

Port Reactions :In this section we have chosen to focus on three cases to show some of the reactions we have seen from various port authorities in countries that are not heavily affected by Ebola.  After an initial ban on all vessels from EVD-impacted countries, on August 10 the Cote d’Ivoire Port Health department imposed mandatory health checks on all vessels that have called ports in countries affected by Ebola whilst at anchorage at Abidjan. This means that the Port Health department needs to confirm that all onboard are in good health before the pilot is allowed to board and bring the vessels into port. According to Hapag Lloyd the health department is only able to handle two vessels per day.

The Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority announced on August 30 that as part of their preparations for mitigation of the spread of Ebola, port users were directed to adhere to the following : all crew and passengers on board vessels should complete a health declaration form, all vessels that have called at Ebola-affected countries and vessels carrying Ebola suspects should remain at anchorage and not enter the port until declared safe by port health staff, and all shipping lines must provide nose masks, gloves and sanitizers on board on the gangway.

In Benin, the port of Cotonou announced preventative measures on September 11 which included all vessels calling at Cotonou being obliged to send a list of the 10 last port calls to port authorities three days before the vessel arrives. Similar procedures have been introduced by port authorities in San Pedro (Cote d’Ivoire), Lome (Togo), Luanda (Angola), Libreville (Gabon), Walvis Bay (Namibia), Matadi (Congo DRC), Pointe Noire (Congo) and Dakar (Senegal).

Carrier Reactions: With the Ebola outbreak, vessels calling the region are indeed facing increasing health and safety measures to prevent the spread of the virus. Therefore, some of the major carriers operating in Africa have adjusted their service network in order to continue to provide effective and reliable port coverage. These include Maersk Line/Safmarine and CMA CGM/Delmas.

Both Maersk Line/Safmarine and CMA CGM/Delmas have chosen to dedicate one service in their network to the most affected countries; Guinea (Conakry), Liberia (Monrovia) and Sierre Leone (Freetown).

The only changes the carriers have made to the existing services are that Maersk Line/Safmarine has added Monrovia to the WAF7 service and removed Dakar in Senegal, which now is served through the WAF13 service, while CMA CGM/Delmas has added Conakry to the PC Nord service.

These changes have had no significant impact either on capacity to the Ebola-affected countries or frequency in terms of the ports called, which is very important in order to maintain the stability of cargo flows in and out of the countries. Furthermore, we have no information about serious incidents in the major ports in these countries. In Liberia, Maersk Line has not seen any changes to port operations in Monrovia, with no waiting time or congestion, and Maersk Line continues to serve the port with a fixed weekly call. According to Maersk Line’s local representative in Monrovia there are no major issues in delivering to the hinterland. There are quarantined zones and trucks are required to pass through checkpoints (with additional preventative measures), but delivery is possible.

Another reaction we have seen from one of the smaller carriers in the trade to Africa, Hapag Lloyd, is imposition of an inspection fee surcharge of USD 250/20’, due to the additional cost associated with the mandatory health checks before entering specific ports: e.g., delays, extra handling, speed-ups, etc.

Credit: SeaIntel maritime Analysis

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