World ports Covid19
information portal

The operation of ports is of vital importance to face the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. Ports ensure that the world’s medical supplies, food, energy raw materials, as well as manufactured goods and components vital to the preservation of employment, continue to reach their intended destinations.
In the spirit of international collaboration that drives the World Ports Sustainability Program, this dedicated webpage is designed to help ports worldwide face that challenge. Using the format of frequently-asked questions, we will provide guidance on current best practices, the industry’s collective recommendations to governments as well as regularly updated, useful information.


What would the post-COVID19 landscape look like for ports?

A new ongoing series of webinars will explore the impact of the coronavirus on ports and supply chains. This free webinar series began with a summer series in 2020 focused on the interconnected topics of adapting business models, improving ship-shore relations, and driving data sharing. The Autumn series  in 2020 focused on the role of port authorities as community builders, sustainable partnerships between cargo interests and ports and globalisation vs regionalisation: the impact on cargo and passenger ports. The new series of webinars in 2021 has so far looked at accelerating digitalization in the maritime transport chain, the role of diversity in propelling innovation in ports and on proactive steps ports can take to provide landside bunkering infrastructure for alternative fuels.

It is brought to you by the team behind the IAPH World Ports Conference 2021.

To watch these on demand, please visit our webinar section of the IAPH2021 Conference website 




What is the current operational status of ports worldwide?

The general picture is that most ports are fully operational for cargo business and have closed or restricted operations for passenger vessels, especially cruise ships. The vast majority of ports are endeavouring to have all cargo-related services operational 24/7 whilst ensuring a safe working environment for shore and office personnel.

Even if cargo operations continue to function normally, in many cases governments and/or port authorities will have introduced safety regulations and restrictions inter alia related to the movement of ship’s crews, truck drivers and other people needing access to port facilities.

The secretariat of the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) provides a weekly update of press communications from its member ports regarding their operational status and impact of the pandemic.

Inchcape Shipping Services are updating their COVID19 portal (see below John Hopkins University World Map) with a list of ports offering crew changes, detailing local conditions and requirements.

Where can I find information as a shipowner on port regulations and restrictions?

There are several free online resources that provide regular updates on safety regulations and restrictions introduced by port states and/or port authorities.

The International Group of P&I Clubs, which represents 13 member P&I Clubs, has launched a new online digital tool to assist shipowners, charterers, operators and other parties in the maritime sector to track country and port specific advice, detailing the measures being put in place in response to the COVID19 pandemic. The publicly-accessible online dashboard allows industry to identify commercial risks and physical threats to shipping around the world and provide live updates as to the number of confirmed cases of the virus, countries at risk and what to look out for.

Ship agents of the Wilhelmsen group, active in 2200 locations worldwide, are reporting three times per day on port-related regulations and restrictions. These are kept updated through an online map. You can subscribe here to receive a daily update in your mailbox. The port agency S5 also has a portal.

On the website of BIMCO, the global association of shipowners, operators, managers, brokers and agents, you will also useful information on its COVID19 portal.

Where do I find operational guidance as a port based on global best practice?

Under the umbrella of the World Ports Sustainability Program (WPSP), a guidance document has been developed to provide support for the implementation of actions to prepare and alleviate coronavirus-related contingencies for port authorities and port operators. The document is based on an initiative of the Port of Açu (Brazil) to coordinate, collect and summarise input by ports worldwide on their initiatives facing the coronavirus crisis. This international benchmark has been complemented with further contributions from IAPH member ports. The guidance document is dynamic and will be regularly revised using new and updated contributions from ports worldwide.

IAPH has also been cooperating with an initiative led by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) on COVID-19 related guidelines for ensuring a safe shipboard interface between ship- and shore-based personnel. IAPH has also participated in the formulation of a 12-step framework of protocols on crew changes compiled by ICS in coordination with the maritime industry and supported and published by the IMO. The IMO are formally distributing the circular to member states as a recommendation and ICS is on hand to assist governments in implementation of the protocols.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore has also made available its innovative Crew Change Guidebook which contains detailed process mapping and practical assistance for ports seeking to establish a safe and efficient crew change operation.

In addition, using their early experience with the COVID-19 outbreak, the China Ports and Harbours Association has produced a Guidance on the Prevention and Control of COVID-19 for Ports and its Front Line Staff including measures on sanitary prevention and guidelines on preventing impact from overseas.

Based on several documents received from ports that are part of the UNCTAD TrainForTrade Network, the UNCTAD secretariat produced a technical note on port responsiveness to the COVID-19 pandemic. The note contains a series of measures to implement and observe, which could serve as generic guidelines. It also presents an example of a crisis protocol that can be used as a guide on actions that should be implemented in relation to strictly defined crisis levels. The note furthermore contains a compilation of documents from ports around the world, produced in English, Spanish and French.

A dedicated WPSP task force of experts on nautical and cargo operations, trade facilitation, IT, communication and stakeholder dialogue has been set up to review and update operational guidance and assess any new developments. The task force is chaired by IAPH Vice-President for Central and South America, Tessa Major, and involves experts of the ports of Açu, Antwerp, Busan, Felixstowe, Guangzhou, London, Los Angeles, Mombasa and Rotterdam. Ports having specific operational questions can contact the task force on Ports are also encouraged to use this email address to share experience and best practice.

What support should I as a port request from my government?

Governments need to ensure that shipping, ports and hinterland transportation remain fully operational, in order to maintain complete functionality of global supply chains. Governments should notably:

  • Ensure ports are open for all cargo-related business, so that all visiting commercial ships and hinterland transport modalities continue to have access to port facilities.
  • Designate professional seafarers and marine personnel, port workers, port authority and port service personnel and other vital ancillary personnel such as pilots, mooring, tug and dredger crew, ship suppliers as well as workers of inland transport modes as ‘key workers’ providing essential services.
  • Promote the use of electronic solutions for administrative and commercial interactions between all entities operating in a port and with those involved in maritime and hinterland transport modes to reduce the risks posed by interaction or the exchange of documents.
  • Implement as recommended by WCO under an overarching government approach, a list of essential goods, equipment and services as a major measure to facilitate the cross-border movement of relief and essential supplies and to sustain supply chain continuity.
  • Leverage your national trade facilitation committee to combat trade challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as per the advice of UNCTAD and using the WTO COVID19 Trade Facilitation Repository

Alongside fifteen other global industry associations representing the maritime transportation sector, the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) has contributed to a preliminary list of recommendations on the facilitation of maritime trade during the COVID-19 pandemic which the International Maritime Organisation relayed to governments and relevant national authorities on 27 March 2020. The recommendations were initiated and coordinated by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) which holds a weekly conference call with all associations involved.

ICS and IAPH also contribute to the COVID-19 Response Group of the UN Global Compact Action Platform for Sustainable Ocean Business. The UN Global Compact has recently released recommendations to ensure the continuing safe and efficient functioning of ocean-related supply chains during the COVID-19 pandemic which also refer to the WPSP-IAPH Task Force COVID19 guidance document for ports.

What is the economic impact on the global port sector?

Economists of the World Trade Organisation are analysing the fallout from the COVID-19 crisis and will report their findings and projections for trade in 2020 and 2021. A report published on April 8 by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) says that world trade is expected to fall by up to 32% this year due to the disruption of economic activity caused by the COVID19 pandemic. Predicting a decline of anywhere from 13% to 32%, will most likely have a greater impact than the slump in trade during the global financial crisis of 2008. The report predicted that nearly all regions will suffer double-digit declines in trade volumes, with reports from North America and Asia hit hardest. In terms of sectors, the biggest falls are likely to be in areas with complex value chains such as electronics and automotive products.

To monitor the economic impact on ports, a Port Economic Impact Barometer has been created under the umbrella of the World Ports Sustainability Program. The barometer gathers weekly input from ports worldwide on the evolution of vessel movements in ports, restriction measures on port entry for cargoes and crews, operational delays due to changes in port call procedures, disruptions to hinterland transport, effects on quayside capacity utilisation and warehousing and storage facilities as well as dock labour availability. The data has been compiled and analysed by Professors Theo Notteboom and Thanos Pallis, two of the most world’s prominent port economists. A full summary report spanning results from early April 2020 until April 2021 is downloadable here.

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Under the WPSP umbrella an expert Task Force has been set up that will endeavour to help with any other questions ports may have.
You can provide input on your port's response to COVID-19 and contact our experts by email on