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Carriers may blank voyages without notice

Demand for space on vessels from China continues its seasonal decline, but inconsistencies in blanked sailing announcements around China’s Golden Week have been criticised.

To match capacity with slowing demand, a comprehensive blank sailings program covering the China holiday period was announced on the Asia-Europe trade four weeks before Golden Week, with suggestions the move was unnecessarily slow, with the two largest alliances seemingly waiting for the other to make a move.

Lines defend blank sailings by insisting that they provide options for alternative coverage to minimise impact and blanking sailings for a full period, rather than on an ad hoc basis, is easier to plan around.

Regarding the sometimes contradictory nature of cancellation announcements, Maersk have said that vessel sharing agreements were purely operational in nature, with no commercial coordination among alliance members. This meant each alliance member was responsible for its communication with respective customers and the content of their advisories.

The Loadstar has reported that there were “plans afoot” for immediate capacity reductions, if things don’t improve for the lines very quickly.  

Much will depend on how the market adjusts to the 2M’s AE2/Swan service suspension at the end of September, the Ocean Alliance’s five headhaul blankings, THE Alliance’s three void sailings and an additional cancelled AE7/Condor loop by 2M in week 40.  

Amid their fight to shore up freight rates, lines are beginning to roll out IMO 2020 fuel surcharges to recover the extra costs involved in complying with the new IMO regulations from January 2020. 

Ships that intend to use the low-sulphur fuel for compliance will start replenishing their tanks with the new fuel in the final quarter of 2019.  

Maersk has advised that it will introduce an EFF (environmental fuel fee) from December 1, on spot and short-term contracts of less than three months. It is due to reveal the EFF amount at the end of next month, and advised that the surcharges would be calculated as the price difference between high and low-sulphur fuel “multiplied by a trade factor”.