A large part of the ports in Latin America have registered a marked reduction due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Data from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) show the interannual variation in container port activity between January and May 2020 in a sample of ports that represents 80% of the region’s total cargo.
The regional drop in container port activity is around 1%, while for the same period the sum of imports and exports per container fell 6%.
The difference between the two figures is explained by the fact that other port, operational and transshipment movements offset the drop in international trade in containers.
Preliminary data collected at the end of June 2020 allows us to see that in that month, both the total movement of containers and the sum of imports and exports per container in the region contracted another 4 percentage points with respect to the reduction observed until May.
Ports and pandemic
The pandemic will likely reinforce two interrelated trends that were already outlined previously.
According to ECLAC, the first is a trend towards a lower level of productive, commercial and technological interdependence between the main world economies, in particular between the United States and Europe, on the one hand, and China, on the other.
The second is a trend towards world trade with a lower level of openness, more permeated by geopolitical and national security considerations, with a greater presence of conflicts and with a weakened multilateral institutional framework.
Latin America and the Caribbean (selected ports): evolution of container port activity, January to May 2020 compared to the same period in 2019 (Percentages)
The net result would not be a reversal of globalization, but a more regionalized world economy, organized around three major productive poles: North America, Europe, and East and Southeast Asia.