Global Shipping Network Dynamics During the COVID-19 Pandemic's Initial Phases

Christopher Dirzka, Michele Acciaro*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Catastrophic incidents can significantly disrupt supply chains, but most of these disruptions remain localized. It was not until the onset of COVID-19 that a disruption in our lifetimes achieved a global magnitude. In order to contain the pandemic, governments around the world resorted to closing borders, shutting down manufacturing plants, and imposing lockdowns, which resulted in disrupted production capabilities and weakened consumer spending. The effects of these measures have been clearly visible in global transport networks, where disruptions ripple through the system and serve as a precursor to the disruptions in the broader economy. In this study, we use liner shipping schedule cancellations, a form of serious transport network disruption, as distress signals of the pandemic's impact on global supply chains. Our study applies a three-stage approach and provides insights into operator behaviors when under distress. We show that the pandemic challenged service network integrity and that network disruptions first clustered in Asia before rippling along main trade routes. Agile liner shipping operations, aided by planned service suspensions, prevented the collapse of the global maritime transport networks and indicated the maritime industry's ability to withstand even major catastrophic incidents.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103265
JournalJournal of Transport Geography
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Pandemic disruption
  • Network analysis
  • Liner shipping network dynamic
  • Public notices

Cite this