Ocean Container Network Dynamics During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Christopher Dirzka, Michele Acciaro

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


While supply chain disruptions are not uncommon, they rarely have a global character. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted global supply chain networks in the last two years in an unprecedented manner. In particular, disruptions in container shipping networks that are the backbone of international trade have been of particular concern. The pandemic caused widespread sailings cancellations, cargo roll-overs, route restructuring, and the worsening of infrastructure bottlenecks. These disruptions, however, are a complex phenomenon, that in part are the result of the measures taken by governments around the world to reduce the spread of the virus, in part stem from the emergency measures to contain outbreaks, and in part also derive from changes in demand and consumer spending patterns. Understanding the consequences of the pandemic on global shipping networks is paramount. It can help industry and policymakers better prepare for future ones and deal with the current crisis. Our study uses ship position and other ship-specific data and shows that disruptions resulting from the pandemic have rippled across maritime networks, affecting ports, and impacting global connectivity with different degrees of severity. Studying operator’s behaviors under distress, we can provide insights into how global container networks preserved their integrity in the face of one of the most significant disruptions after World War II. We argue that global maritime networks have shown a remarkable degree of resilience that has allowed international trade to carry on even during the most dramatic phases of the pandemic. We suggest, however, that network dynamics should be further studied to find better ways to respond to future, potentially more severe, disruptions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPort Systems in Global Competition : Spatial-Economic Perspectives on the Co-Development of Seaports
EditorsCésar Ducruet, Theo Notteboom
Number of pages17
Place of PublicationAbingdon
Publication date2023
ISBN (Print)9781032327730, 9781032327778
ISBN (Electronic)9781003316657
Publication statusPublished - 2023
SeriesRoutledge Studies In Transport Analysis

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