March 24, 2020: Agility has released data on worldwide cargo capacity reductions in the wake of the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. The air freight capacity on transatlantic trade lanes has taken a hit by showing a significant decline in numbers, recording a drop of nearly 90 percent belly capacity between Europe and the US.

In North Africa, the release highlighted on the suspension of flights from all Egyptian airports until March 31, following a similar move by Morocco, which also closed land borders with Spain. Algeria suspended air and sea travel with Europe from March 19. Tunisia also closed its land borders and suspended international flights on March 16.

Travel restrictions widened across Africa. In South Africa, almost half of the country’s land ports of entry are closed, as well as two of its eight seaports. Angola halted international flights for two weeks from March 20. South Africa has also halted flights from affected countries including France, Switzerland, South Korea, Italy, Spain, the US, and the UK.

In East Africa, Kenya has halted all international incoming and outgoing passenger flights as of March 26. Rwanda has also closed its borders to all passenger flights. For both countries, cargo services will continue. Uganda has travel restrictions in place with 16 countries.

West African country Ghana suspended entry to visitors from countries with confirmed COVID-19 cases. Nigeria has suspended flights from 13 affected countries. As of March 21, Nigeria closed three airports: Port Harcourt International Airport, Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, and Akanu Ibiam International Airport - to both passenger and cargo flights. Only the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos will accept international flights.

In September 2019, the logistics company operating in more than 100 countries, has announced plans to develop warehouse parks across Africa at a cost of about $200 million each. The company, which has annual revenue of about, $5.5 billion, has set up one at the Ghanaian port city of Tema, about 16 miles east of Accra, and will open three more, in Abidjan, Maputo and Lagos, the commercial hubs of Ivory Coast, Mozambique and Nigeria, respectively by June 2020. Addis Ababa, Luanda, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, and Kinshasa may follow.

As of March 23, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) has recorded 1,654 positive cases in 43 African countries.

Passenger flights have been halted to and from Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar (although flights are still transiting through Doha). Emirates stated that it will cancel all passenger flights as of March 25 but there are no restrictions on cargo movement, and freighters continue to fly across the Arabian Gulf. Some passenger aircraft from carriers across the region are now being converted into temporary freighters. All passenger flights to Beirut, Lebanon have been stopped through March 29.

The travel restriction in the Middle East has reduced capacity largely to freighters in markets across the region.

Intra-Asia trade lanes continue to be significantly constrained with Singapore suspending short-term visitors from entering or transiting through Singapore as of March 23. Vietnam suspended all international flights as of March 21. Malaysia closed its borders on March 18. India’s one week ban on all arrivals starting March 22 will significantly impact capacity to and from India. In Asia, carriers are at reduced capacity, but most ports are operational and supply-demand roughly in balance. There is a shortage of reefer containers, and trucking is at less than full capacity.

From March 17 for at least 30 days, the European Union (EU) has closed off 26 countries to nearly all visitors from the rest of the world. Turkey has halted passenger flights to 14 countries, 10 of them in Europe.

As per Seabury Consulting, freighter capacity is increasing in all regions except North America. Intra-Asia saw the biggest freighter capacity increase. Capacity declines have occurred across key cargo airports globally: Italian airports – with 2100+ passenger flight cancellations – are among the most impacted in Europe, but belly capacity declines have occurred across key cargo airports in Europe. Belly capacity declines have also occurred across Asia and North America.

China is nearing full production by the end of March, and an increased number of freighter flights in the market are helping ease the outbound China capacity strain. While passenger flight capacity is still squeezed, freighter capacity is now 1,300 tonnes higher than the same period last year, Seabury stated.

Globally, the carriers are operating scheduled freighters, but cargo is also moving on an ad hoc / unscheduled freighter or charter basis. Committed capacity can no longer be guaranteed. Rates for charters have doubled, and in many cases, are higher than that air freight rates have reached unprecedented levels. Premiums must be paid to get cargo uplifted on a priority basis.

Agility is part of the Pandemic Supply Chain Network (PSCN), a coalition of United Nations Agencies including the World Health Organization (WHO), World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), as well as the World Economic Forum and its private sector members. The PSCN provides supply chain capacity and constraint information to all responders and donates to support relief efforts. Agility has offered WHO free warehouse space to stockpile medical supplies in Dubai, Malaysia, and Ghana, and have facilitated contacts between responders and our customers who make or distributed masks, gloves, goggles, gowns, and other personal protection equipment.

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