Italian vessels delays to Russia to expand to other ports as coronavirus outbreak worsens

Author: Clare Pennington

2020/03/16

LONDON (ICIS)--Coronavirus-related fears are prompting Russian ports to step up controls on vessels coming from Italy which are causing long delays, an Italian shipper said on Monday.

“Russian ports are not happy to accept vessels from Italy right now ... Tanker and dry-bulk vessels are still going but suffering long delays [because of the time] spent on preliminary checks before berthing,” said the source.

“That people are not allowed to go on board also causes delays."

The woes for Italian vessels at Russian ports started last week; similar delays have also been reported in Turkey.

US ports are the next destination expected to take time to unload on arrival for ships from across Europe.

The industry also expects more delays intra-Europe, said another source on Monday, given the number of countries where self-isolation has been mandatory.

Free practique, where shippers must notify port authorities before berthing that the vessel is free from contagious diseases, is in place for all ships arriving at Italian ports.

This includes issuing a maritime health declaration, sanitary exemption certificates, crew lists and a list of ports of call over the last two weeks, to be sent at least six hours before arrival.

Similar measures are in place at several ports across Europe.

However, two of the largest European ports, Antwerp and Rotterdam, said on Monday operations are running normally.

SHIPPERS’ BOOM NOT TO LAST
Chemical tanker freight rates were assessed as stable on 13 March for intra-Europe and Transatlantic westbound routes, but demand for spot vessel space is also expected to continue deteriorating over the coming weeks.

Brokers and shippers said on 13 March that demand has already began to drop.

With crude and bunker prices nosediving, margins have improved for ship operators in March, but sources in the industry said the situation will worsen for them once safety controls in ship expand across the globe.

"Businesses-wise, we are making money now, but soon it will be a disaster," said a source at a major international shipper.

"We are partly covered for April, and March has been our best month. We don't expect it to go uphill from here, that is for sure.

“We are going to see a delay in ships due to health inspections in the US and most likely we will see a change in some trade patterns, as some ports will be closed or limit access,” the source added.

Focus article by Clare Pennington