Influence of COVID-19 on ports compared to 2008 financial crisis

The normal flow patterns in maritime sector are severely disrupted due to COVID-19. Global container shipping has a decrease of 8-10 % in the volumes transported. While exports to Asia are still doing quite well, the imports are taking more dramatic forms. Over the past few weeks, blank sailings have increased and idle ships have been detected. We have seen this type of disruption previously during the financial crisis.

Differences between 2008 financial crisis and COVID-19

• The crisis in 2008-2009 was unexpected. The market situation prior to the crisis promised success. Therefore, after the crisis, there was a lot of disappointment and a general sentiment of pessimism amongst people. Currently, in spite of disruptions brought by COVID-19, people are optimistic and willing to work hard to pick up from where they left.

• In 2008-2009 nobody was prepared for those shocks, while with COVID-19, we do have the digital tools to support us. This makes it easier to act upon the changed circumstances.

• In 2008-2009, a human element was not present. During COVID-19 situation, we are faced with a human element. This limits human interactions. We have to adopt different ways of interacting with each other.

• The financial crisis caused less demand, while COVID-19 affects the supply instead of the demand.

Similarities between 2008 financial crisis and COVID-19

• It is expected that it will take a while before Mergers & Acquisitions will take place again. We have seen this previously with the financial crisis.


• For the future, it is expected that digitalization and automation will help to adjust to unexpected situations. Due to the COVID-19, there is a lot of push to reform. This can be seen already in the usage of electronic payments. In the long term, this could benefit the working environment in the maritime sector. It is expected that the current crisis will accelerate the digital transformation and the greening of supply chain.

Source: Hoffman, J., Notteboom, T., Seroka, G. (2020, May 13). Business as unusual – adapting port business models to survive and thrive in the post COVID-19 era [Webinar].