Despite these developments, the COVID-19 pandemic caused severe disruptions to the ocean shipping industry, affecting every link in the global supply chain. As a result, the volume of cargo transported by ships in 2020 shrank by about four percent compared with 2019.
Impact of COVID-19 on the industryThe COVID-19 pandemic hit the global shipping industry especially hard. Ports had to deal with closures resulting in congestions, labor shortages, and blank sailings. At the same time, container carriers struggled with capacity utilization and ship delays, bringing schedule reliability of major container ship operators below 40 percent for most of 2021. On top of that, freight rates have skyrocketed, putting pressure on industries that rely on exports or imports of commodities and goods. In turn, consumers all around the globe are forced to bear the rising costs of transport in increasing prices, with the inhabitants of small island developing states being affected the most.
However, with freight rates reaching record-high figures in 2021 and 2022, container carriers were winners of the latest turmoil in the ocean shipping industry. In 2021, container shipping companies recorded profits amounting to 110 billion U.S. dollars, more than double the profit generated in the previous decade. This new influx of money enables container carriers to invest in expanding their fleets by ordering new ships to be built. It is projected that in 2022 and 2023, the capacity of the global container fleet will increase by 4.5 and 7.5 percent, respectively.