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Liner Carriers Firing Few Blanks

[ January 8, 2021   //   ]

Data from eeSea’s Blank Sailings Tracker is showing that 1.7% and 0.6% of head haul sailings on the three main East/West liner trades have been cancelled in February and March 2021 respectively, compared to the 19.9% and 9.4% sailings cancelled in the same months last year.

Very few sailings have so far been cancelled for the Q2 2021 period, whereas in 2020, Q2 cancellations amounted to 14.7% of expected sailings.

Simon Sundboell, CEO of maritime and supply chain intelligence company eeSea, said: “In the first half of last year, blank sailings were widely considered as a way of managing capacity during the Covid-19 crisis. However, this is now being blamed for the unanticipated increase in freight rates and significant delays across the supply chain.”

Commenting on the situation, Sundboell said: “It is understandable that cargo owners are frustrated by the tight ocean capacity. The impact on their businesses is huge. But there seems to be an impression that carriers are deliberately holding back capacity to push up freight rates. We don’t see that.”

Analysis of eeSea’s Trade Capacity Index, which relates closely to the Blank Sailings Tracker, does in fact indicate an increase in trade capacity compared to 2020 figures.

On the three main East/West head hauls, January’s effective capacity is up by 7.6% over the corresponding period in 2020, with almost the same percentage of blank sailings. The data also shows February and March are up by a staggering 34% and 17% respectively, partly owing to the lower number of cancellations.

“We see that carriers are snapping up any available charter tonnage,” said Sundboell. “There is no idle capacity left, carriers are delaying scrapping, and the first new tonnage orders have even been placed.”

As trade capacity and blank sailings look set to remain a key focus this year, eeSea is making a version of its real-time Trade Capacity Index and Blank Sailings Tracker freely available. Visitors to its website dashboards will be able to assess various trade lanes, such as Far East-Europe, Transpacific or trades to/from the South American East Coast.

“At a granular trade and port-focused level, our Blank Sailings and Trade Capacity data can help cargo owners, ports, service providers and even the carriers themselves better anticipate any deviations from week to week.”

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