SEOUL, July 21 (Yonhap) — Cargo processed at South Korean seaports fell nearly 8 percent in the first half of the year in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, government data showed Tuesday.

Cargo handled at the country’s ports came to 744.21 million tons in the January-June period, down 7.8 percent from a year earlier, according to the data by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.

Handling of export-import cargo shrank 9.9 percent on-year to 634.03 million tons in the first half, leading the overall decline.

Hit by the coronavirus pandemic, container cargo dropped 2.6 percent on-year to 14.24 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) during the six-month period.

A total of 8.06 million TEUs of export-import freight was processed, down 3.7 percent from a year earlier, as a decline in global trade more than offset increased trade with China and Southeast Asian nations.

Transshipment cargo, or cargo processed here en route to final destinations, also decreased 0.6 percent from a year ago to 6.09 million TEUs.

Non-container cargo handled at the ports sank 4.9 percent on-year to 500.3 million tons in the first half.

Busan on the southeastern tip of South Korea was the country’s busiest maritime gateway in the first half, with its container cargo handling totaling 4.88 million TEUs, followed by Incheon, west of Seoul, with 1.54 million TEUs.

A ministry official painted a gloomy picture of second-half cargo volume, saying the country’s ports will likely continue to face a difficult situation due to the novel coronavirus outbreak down the road.