A look at the transport industry shows how drastically and how quickly the corona virus has changed the world: flight plans have been cut, the streets are swept empty, empty cruise ships are bobbing away.
We have analyzed extensive data on road, air and ship traffic. They impressively show the dramatic consequences of the corona crisis. Car traffic, the aviation industry and cruises are particularly badly affected. Container ships are an exception: the declines there have so far been manageable – more on that later.
Fewer and fewer cars
The changes on the streets are first visible to everyone. In order to be able to accurately estimate the development of traffic density, we analyzed data from the navigation provider TomTom. TomTom tracks the movement of 10 to 20 percent of all cars in Germany via built-in navigation systems and smartphones – but also in almost all other countries.
We looked at nine cities across Europe, including the Corona stronghold of Bergamo, Milan and Madrid, as well as four German cities. There we counted how many tracking messages were recorded per day. This number usually fluctuates only minimally from weekday to weekday.
But since the corona virus has been rampant, the numbers have plummeted: in Bergamo, in particular, and in Milan, the traffic density last Friday (March 20) was only 17 percent compared to the day before the crisis, January 24 – see chart above. Vienna was 43 percent on Friday, Berlin 64 percent. In Austria, however, more stringent exit restrictions apply than in Germany.
The following diagram shows how quickly road traffic in German cities has dropped. You can see the daily traffic density of the last 14 days – always in comparison to the seven days of the fourth calendar week 2020. The greatest decrease to 22 percent – measured on this Saturday – was in Munich, where stricter restrictions apply than in Berlin or Hamburg.
Significantly less traffic – this has been a reality in Italy and Spain for a few days longer. There, the lockdown came into effect earlier – and the measures are more far-reaching than previously in Germany.
The Aviation industry hits the corona crisis particularly hard. The number of commercial flights worldwide is decreasing day by day. If you compare the flight connections per week in 2020 with the numbers from 2019, you see slight increases in the first few weeks, then slight decreases from February onwards – and now in calendar week 12 (the previous week) a downturn.
The corona crisis started in China, then spread to Asia – until it finally reached Europe. This can be seen very well in the number of starts that have been counted at various airports since the beginning of the year. Beijing is about six weeks ahead of Frankfurt.
The business of Cruise industry. No wonder: a ship on which thousands of people are closely packed is an ideal distribution station for the virus. And there have been several cases of outbreaks on cruise ships.
Data from the Hamburg-based company Vesseltracker illustrate how the floating luxury hotels worldwide were withdrawn from the market within a few weeks. Vesseltracker records the current status reports of ships (GPS position, speed, direction of travel) similar to flight radar for aircraft via receivers.
At Container ships Despite everything, traffic seems to be relatively normal in 2020. “So far, the differences from the previous year have not been so blatant,” says Bengt van Beuningen, spokesman for the Port of Hamburg. Ships from China would normally need six weeks to go to Hamburg. The declines in production in China would only lead to fewer ships arriving in Hamburg in the coming weeks.
If you look at the departures from China’s ten largest ports, you can see the first declines from the end of January, when China started to fight the corona virus. At that time, the holidays around the New Year were extended to save time.
In order to get a good impression of the development this year, it is better not to look at the daily or weekly departures. Because these numbers fluctuate relatively strongly.
It is easier to count all container ships from 300 meters in length that have left China’s top 10 ports since January 1, 2020. On March 24, 2020 you land at a number of just under 2900. That is just a minus of 11 percent compared to 2019 – see the following graphic.
It is quite possible that these giant pots are not yet as busy as normal. But production in China is now ramping up again – and the number of container ships leaving there will also increase, the spokesman for the Port of Hamburg, Van Beuningen, believes. The previous failures could possibly be compensated for.