Coronavirus Deaths Top 1,000

(Global) Freight Impacts Likely to be 'Significant'

The impact of the coronavirus on the transport sector continues to rise as the number of deaths from the outbreak in China tops 1,000.

Industry experts estimate that the virus is costing container shipping lines as much as US$350 million per week, with the pro rata impact for breakbulk operators potentially much higher, as many ad hoc services face disruption.

In total, more than 42,000 cases have now been reported in China with the number steadily rising as it appears that measures to contain the disease are not working.

Unforeseen Exposures

Logistics industry body TT Club has warned that ongoing disruption to freight transport services and global supply chains is likely to be significant and "will continue to evolve" on a daily basis, creating "unforeseen exposures" that may also accrue.

“Up-to-date status reports on their cargo’s progress, or lack of it, are vital to shippers. Forwarders and logistics operators will certainly prove their mettle if they can consistently make customers aware of the ongoing attempts to problem-solve. Careful recording of communication trails detailing such actions will also help in any disputes in the future,” said Peregrine Storrs-Fox, TT Club’s risk management director.

The latest figures from transportation data provider, IHS Markit, suggest that bulk shipping will be one of the most affected shipping sectors as weak demand pummels trade. Demand for raw commodities such as iron ore and coal from China’s factories has already fallen drastically this year.

Up to 60% of Global Population at Risk

Public health experts now predict that as much as 60 percent of the world’s population could be infected with the disease if more is not done to limit its spread.

"It is possible that epidemics could be already growing in multiple major Chinese cities, with a time lag of one to two weeks behind the Wuhan outbreak,” said Joseph Wu, a professor from the University of Hong Kong.

Despite draconian measures by the Chinese government to contain the virus, many experts believe action may have been too late to prevent the virus spreading abroad, noting that the infection rate far exceeds that of the SARS outbreak in 2003.  

“Large cities overseas with close transport links to China could potentially also become outbreak epicentres because of substantial spread of pre-symptomatic cases,” Wu added.