Shippers are Living with Blanked Sailings, For Now

23 August 2023


The world’s three major shipping alliances, accounting for 80% of the global container market, “blanked” 24 sailings in June and July out of a total of 25 China-to-Europe loops, according to data from Alphaliner, which commented that the skipping of advertised sailings is now “part of normal shipping business routine”.

According to The Loadstar, shipping firms are more concerned that agreed rates are honoured on the alternative sailing, even if the shipment falls outside the valid period, than the fact that the sailing has been blanked or pushed back (“vessel slidings”).

Partners in The Alliance, which includes Hapag Lloyd, NYK, Yang Ming, MOL, K-Line and HMM, blanked a greater proportion of their sailings, almost 20%, than Ocean Alliance (CMA-CGM, Cosco Group, OOCL and Evergreen; 10.4%) and 2M (Maersk and MSC; 4.2%).

Speaking to The Loadstar, a director of one NVOCC (non-vessel-owning common carrier) said, “The only problem we have is changing the name of the vessel on all the paperwork,” and, “Our clients don’t mind as long as they get their goods in a timely manner and, importantly, transported from China at the right price.”

The addition of new tonnage means that there are a plenty of ships available in the global system; when a sailing is blanked, there will often be another available to NVOCCs a few days later.

By managing their capacity carefully, the 3 alliances managed to implement much of their intended general rate increases (GRIs) for Asia-North Europe, and they are likely to continue using blanking strategies to support the next round too, a strategy that will be made a little easier should reports of likely increased demand be realised this month.

Chamber International trade procedures manager Sam Paley said, “Blank sailings can cause serious supply chain disruption for manufacturers who rely on imports of materials for their production processes. We would advise importers to work with their suppliers to review a carrier’s history of blank sailings before booking freight.”


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