Shipping’s Smaller Operators Most Susceptible to the Coronavirus Financial Impact

By Costas Paris.

This was supposed to be a year of recovery for the world’s oceangoing shipping companies, with trading peace in major markets providing a new period of stability for cargo carriers.

Maritime operators instead are facing their biggest challenge since the 2009 financial crisis. Many companies are struggling to stay afloat as the impact of the coronavirus outbreak sweeps across supply chains, slashing production in China and dealing a blow to global trade and the movement of goods from iron ore to consumer electronics.

Container shipping lines are idling vessels at a record pace this quarter and have slashed dozens of sailings on major trade lanes connecting Europe and North America to China, the world’s biggest exporter of manufactured products and largest importer of raw commodities.

Demand in China has been throttled by quarantines that have kept workers from returning to factories following the Lunar New Year. Ports are open but are backed up because trucks can’t get to the cargo terminals as a result of virus-related transport restrictions.