Less shipping in Belgian waters due to corona | Flanders Marine Institute

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Less shipping in Belgian waters due to corona

Oostende (2020.05.27) – As a result of the corona crisis the Belgian part of the North Sea and the Western Scheldt experienced a decline in shipping of 13 and 5%, respectively. This is evident from an open data analysis made by the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) for the period February-April in 2019 and in 2020. These results correspond with the general European situation and emphasize the importance of quickly available high-quality data.

Press release by: Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ)

Making research results, scientific literature and data open and readily available to the public is currently proving its usefulness in the accelerated search for solutions to the corona crisis. This also applies to an instant evaluation of the economic consequences of the pandemic at sea. A data comparison of the shipping intensity in the Belgian part of the North Sea and the Western Scheldt for the period February-April 2019 versus 2020, shows a significant decrease of 13 and 5%, respectively. This decrease appears to be at least partly due to the corona lockdown.

Cargo ships show a decrease of respectivily 12 and 6%, in line with a decline in the number of ship arrivals to Flemish ports. There is a status quo for tankers. Passenger ships (-34 and -39%) and fishing vessels (-33 and -10%) show the greatest reduction in proportion. For the first group, this is directly related to less passenger transport (cruises, excursions, ferries for crossing the Western Scheldt). For the fishing activity, the partial shutdown of the Dutch fleet - which accounts for a significant part of the fishing activity in Belgian waters - plays a significant role, in addition to a reduced demand for fish due to the closure of the catering sector and reduced exports. In addition, non-corona-related causes can also be pointed out: the ban on pulse fishing in Belgian waters since mid-August 2019, and the start-up works in the new Dutch wind farm 'Borssele' near the border of the Belgian part of the North Sea. It is noteworthy that certain offshore activities, such as the construction of two new wind farms off our coast appear to be relatively unaffected by the corona crisis. The stormy weather in January-February 2020 had a greater impact here.

The analysis of the offshore activities in the Belgian part of the North Sea and Western Scheldt is the work of the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), in collaboration with the Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO). It was performed based on freely available AIS data. These data were supplied - via EMODnet - by the European Maritime Safety Agency EMSA. The European Marine Observation & Data Network EMODnet strives to collect, process and make freely available marine data and products. A first look at the European shipping intensity before and during corona shows us that the findings from the Belgian study broadly coincide with the general declines observed in the European seas. The observed decrease in fishing activity in Belgian waters is also part of a similar reduction in the wider North Sea.

The Belgian report is available as a VLIZ policy informing brief (only available in Dutch):  

Verleye, T.; Schepers, L.; Polet, H.; Pirlet, H.; Dauwe, S.; Martens, C.; Lonneville, B.; Tyberghein, L. (2020). Offshore activiteiten tijdens de coronacrisis – Open data als een barometer voor de effecten van de coronamaatregelen op de scheepvaartactiviteit in het Belgisch deel van de Noordzee en de Westerschelde. VLIZ Beleidsinformerende Nota's, 2020_004. Vlaams Instituut voor de Zee (VLIZ): Oostende. [meer]


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