The robust recovery in merchandise exports from the ASEAN+3 economies has been a bright spot during the COVID-19 pandemic, but is masking continuing disruptions to global trade. For one, ports around the world remain constrained by reduced manpower, container supply imbalance, and a shortage of ships. The situation has led to port congestion and a surge in shipping costs.

This note analyzes the impact of port congestion in the ASEAN+3 on the region’s trade using real time “big data” on shipping. Port congestion metrics indicate vessel delays at key container ports in the region. While greater levels of port congestion may reflect increased trade activity, the empirical evidence suggests that they may have reached the point of actually dampening trade in several economies.