Global shipping network dynamics during the COVID-19 pandemic’s initial phases

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Connected dots on world map and a container ship

Past event — 9 February 2022

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Christopher Dirzka

Post-doctoral Researcher

CBS - Copenhagen Business School

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Catastrophic incidents can significantly disrupt supply chains, but most of these disruptions remain localized. It was not until the onset of COVID-19 that a disruption in our lifetimes achieved a global magnitude. In order to contain the pandemic, governments around the world resorted to closing borders, shutting down manufacturing plants, and imposing lockdowns, which resulted in disrupted production capabilities and weakened consumer spending. The effects of these measures have been clearly visible in global transport networks, where disruptions ripple through the system and serve as a precursor to the disruptions in the broader economy. In this study, we use liner shipping schedule cancellations, a form of serious transport network disruption, as distress signals of the pandemic's impact on global supply chains. Our study applies a three-stage approach and provides insights into operator behaviors when under distress. We show that the pandemic challenged service network integrity and that network disruptions first clustered in Asia before rippling along main trade routes. Agile liner shipping operations, aided by planned service suspensions, prevented the collapse of the global maritime transport networks and indicated the maritime industry's ability to withstand even major catastrophic incidents.


Christopher Dirzka joined the Kühne Logistics University in September 2018 as a PhD candidate under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Michele Acciaro. His research focusses on Maritime Economics, in particular on liner shipping and technological advances. Prior to joining the KLU, Christopher gained professional experience as an analyst for the Baltic and International Maritime Council. Furthermore, he worked in the broker division of Mærsk as a Research Analyst, with a particular focus on providing quantitative advisory tools to various external stakeholders. Christopher conducted his bachelor studies in Economics and Business Administration at Aarhus University and specialized in Supply Chain Management with the focus on seaborne logistics at the Copenhagen Business School, where he concluded his master degree.



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Bärbel Wegener

Assistant to Resident Faculty