Quantifying the impact of pandemic lockdown policies on global port calls

Xiwen Bai, Ming Xu, Tingting Han, Dong Yang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


The recent experience of lockdowns during COVID-19 highlights the prolonged impact a pandemic could have on ports and the shipping industry. This paper uses port call data derived from the Automatic Identification System (AIS) reports from the world's 30 largest container ports to quantify both the immediate and longer-term impact of national COVID-19 lockdown policies on global shipping flows. The analysis uses the Difference-in-Difference (DID) and combined regression discontinuity design (RDD)-DID models to represent the effects of lockdown policies. The combination of RDD and DID models is particularly effective because it can mitigate time trends in the data, e.g., the Chinese New Year effect on Chinese ports. This study further examines the potential shock propagation effects, namely, how lockdown policy in one country (i.e., China) can affect the number of port calls in other countries. We categorize ports in other countries into a high-connectivity (with Chinese ports) group and a low-connectivity group, using a proposed connectivity index with China derived from individual vessel trajectories obtained from the AIS data. The results provide a clearly measurable picture of the kinds of trade shocks and consequent pattern changes in port calls over time caused by responses to lockdown policies of varying levels of stringency. We further document the existence of significant shock propagation effects. As the risk of pandemics rises in the twenty-first century, these results can be used by policy makers to assess the potential impact of different levels of lockdown policy on the maritime industry and trade flows more broadly. Maritime players can also use findings such as these to manage their capacity during lockdowns more effectively and to respond more flexibly to changing demand in seaborne transportation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-241
Number of pages18
JournalTransportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • Difference in difference
  • Global port call
  • Pandemic lockdown policy
  • Regression discontinuity design
  • Shock propagation effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Transportation
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Management Science and Operations Research


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