Context-dependent changes in maritime traffic activity during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic

Alexandra Loveridge*, Christopher D. Elvidge, David A. Kroodsma, Timothy D. White, Karen Evans, Akiko Kato, Yan Ropert-Coudert, Julia Sommerfeld, Akinori Takahashi, Robert Patchett, Benjamin Robira, Christian Rutz, David W. Sims

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Downloads (Pure)


Rapid implementation of human mobility restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically reduced maritime activity in early 2020. But where and when activity rebounded, or remained low, during the full extent of 2020 restrictions remains unclear. Using global high-resolution datasets, we reveal a surprising degree of complexity in maritime activity patterns during 2020, yielding a more nuanced picture of how restrictions affected activity. Overall, shipping activity in Exclusive Economic Zones decreased (1.35 %), as expected, however high-seas activity increased (0.28 %). While these annual changes appear modest, there were striking spatially and temporally asynchronous variations in different vessel types’ activity in the second half of 2020, ranging from an > 80 % sustained reduction in passenger vessel activity to a 150 % increase in fishing activity. Results suggest systems-level responses were highly context-dependent, pinpointing areas that experienced significant reductions and spikes in activity, and providing hitherto missing details of COVID-19 impacts on economic and environmental sustainability.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102773
Number of pages14
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Early online date25 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2024


  • Human mobility
  • Maritime traffic
  • COVID-19
  • Shipping
  • Fishing
  • Blue economy


Dive into the research topics of 'Context-dependent changes in maritime traffic activity during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this