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Swedish report on corona and shipping completed in record time

27 March 2020

Last Friday, she took on the assignment. On Monday, Marta Gonzalez-Aregall finished a report on government strategies for maritime transport in Spain and Italy to manage the corona situation - a report that Sweden can benefit from.

"I hope this report could benefit Sweden to implement measures to mitigate the Coronavirus's effect on maritime transport and the movement of ferry vessels. Italy, Spain and Sweden share some similarities in the movement of ferry traffic. Although it is too early to have resulted from these measures, Sweden can consider all different social and economic measures from these countries", Marta Gonzalez-Aregall says.

It was when the Swedish Transport Administration reached out to the Department of Business Economics of Gothenburg University on Friday (March 20) with a couple of questions a quickly decision was made –  why not take advantage of or expertise and multinational staff and make a report on this? Marta Gonzalez-Aregal started immediately and on Monday a seven-sided report was fisnished - a report that shows that it is very difficult to make decisions in a situation that is constantly changing as the coronavirus crisis develops.

"The main results of this study suggest that this uncertain situation needs governments to make decisions on the strategic way. Thus, in the short run, the number of actions has to respond to the increase in demand and avoid panic situations. While, in the long run, these actions have to deal with uncertain circumstances on economic activity."

What would you say about the strategies in both countries? What do they have in common? Where do they differ?

"Both countries have implemented different programs to activate and support the economy in this ambiguous situation. In the case of transportation, both governments have focused on ensuring the transport of goods throughout their national territories. While they deferred the movement of passengers. Furthermore, a common goal of Italy and Spain was to develop coordinated and flexible actions at the European Community level to guarantee the free movement of transport flows."
"A difference right now is that Italy is facing a serious situation and must increase its restrictions on people's movement, which could harm industrial activity."

Is there anything in the study that surprised you?
"Yes, the lack of coordination and non-rapidly response from the European Commission."

Do you see any similarities or differences with how we have handled and can handle the situation in Sweden so far compared to Italy and Spain?

"Sweden could restrict the movement of passengers and, in the case of ferry vessels, they would allow moving only freight transportation (although this measure could be difficult to implement in some regions). At the same time, considering the current situation in Spain and Italy, Sweden could design a group of experts between stakeholders and regional governments to discuss common measures and develop better cohesion between logistics actors as well as terminal operators and port authorities to facilitate the movement of freight throughout the region."

Marta Gonzalez-Aregall believes that Sweden and the Swedish logistics industry have an advantage. Although we are facing a completely different situation now, we can benefit from the experience we have of the logistical consequences that arose during the conflict in the port of Gothenburg in 2016.

“Of course, the reasons are not comparable, but the measures and strategies that were introduced against the uncertain situation can then be considered. In this way, authorities and ports can secure port and logistics operations at the same time as logistics companies have the advantage of being able to implement the mitigation strategies they learned and used during the 2016 conflict.”

There are also some differences between southern Europe and Sweden. In the case of freight transport within the country, Sweden could benefit from the fact that a higher proportion goes via freight trains (30%) than in Italy (13%) and Spain (6%).

Another difference is that the ports in Sweden are managed municipally while the port systems in both Italy and Spain are state-owned.

"It is too early to say anything about the consequences, but the Swedish system could facilitate local measures implementation but these differences could also make the coordination between local, national governments and stakeholders difficult", Marta Gonzalez-Aregall says.

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