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Shipping line reliability drops to all-time low

Despite continuing global demand and freight rates breaking all records, vessel schedule reliability hit an all-time low in August and 30% to 40% of liner deliveries are failing, but the shipping lines are not waiving port storage and demurrage charges.

Although schedule reliability has hovered between 35%-40% for most of the year, on the main ocean trade lanes, it dropped to 33.6% in August which, according to Sea-Intelligence data, is an all-time low for the 10 years it has tracked global schedule reliability.

On an annualised basis, global reliability in August 2021 was -30.1% lower than August 2020, which continues the astonishing trend of yearly declines of over -30.0% in each month in 2021 so far. 

The physical number of vessels deployed on liner services is a contributing factor in port congestion and the ensuing impact on schedules.

On Asia-North Europe, under normal circumstances, very few extra vessels are deployed and the initial impact of the pandemic was muted. This started to increase in 2021 and worsened due to the Suez Canal blockage, which has left ports handling more vessels than they are used to, which in turn adds to the bottleneck problems.

Unsurprisingly the average delay for late vessel arrivals also continued to deteriorate, increasing monthly by half a day to 7.57 days in August.

Maersk Line, was the most reliable top-14 carrier in August 2021, with schedule reliability of 45.6%, followed by Hamburg Süd with 38.0%.

Six carriers had schedule reliability of under 20%, with Evergreen recording the lowest August 2021 schedule reliability of just 11.5%.

To improve schedule reliability Maersk is reducing the number of port calls and has announced its plan to adjust vessel voyage numbers on Asia-North Europe services to match the corresponding actual weeks of departure.

The Financial Times reported today (12th October) that Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company, is diverting big vessels away from the UK because the Felixstowe is rammed full of containers.

China’s October Golden Week, Christmas and Chinese New Year will drive strong demand for container shipping for the last quarter of 2021, but port congestion, especially in Asia and Europe, and service delays are expected to put even more pressure on service schedules.

Repositioning empty equipment is critical, and as boxes remain in Europe, USA and other regions the severity of container shortages increases across Asia, which the lines have used to justify recent reductions in arrival free time and increases in storage fees.

The decision by Felixstowe and London Gateway to refuse empties is profoundly disturbing and while the lines are offering alternative restitution depots, these will likely incur additional cost.

We will arrange short term solutions that protect our customers and work with lines across all three alliances, so that we can access the biggest range of schedule reliability, service offerings and rates.