Tuesday, January 26, 2021
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Box carriers cut blank sailings in 2021

  • Blank sailings at much reduced numbers in 2021
  • Container-carrying capacity is even up compared to 2020
  • January effective capacity up by 7.6% over 2020
  • February and March up by a staggering 34% and 17%, respectively

Container carriers have fewer cancelled sailings going into this year compared to 2020 when several sailings were blanked in the wake of the post-Christmas slump, Chinese New Year and Covid-19 crisis, according to an analysis by eeSea.

Only 1.7% and 0.6% of headhaul sailings on the three East-West main trades have been cancelled in February and March 2021, respectively, said eeSea, a global transport and container shipping scheduling platform, in a media release.

This compares to the 19.9% and 9.4% cancelled in the same months in 2020, analysis conducted on data from eeSea’s Blank Sailings Tracker showed.

Blank sailings were a much-discussed topic in 2020—initially seen as a way for carriers to manage their capacity during the crisis; but eventually being blamed for the unanticipated increases in freight rates and significant delays across the supply chain.

However, the number of sailings only gives a partial overview, as Simon Sundboell, CEO of eeSea, observed: “It’s understandable that cargo owners and their related interests are frustrated by the tight ocean capacity situation these days. The impact on their businesses is huge.”

However Sundboell said eeSea does not think carriers are deliberately holding back capacity to push up freight rates. “We don’t see that. In fact, effective trade capacity is up.”

eeSea’s Trade Capacity Index, which relates closely to the Blank Sailings Tracker, shows that trade capacity is, in fact, up compared to 2020.

On the three main East-West head hauls, January effective capacity is up by 7.6% over 2020. And February and March are up by a staggering 34% and 17% respectively, partly owing to the lower number of cancellations.

Said Sundboell: “Just reading the news, we can see that carriers are snapping up any available charter tonnage. There is no idle capacity left, carriers are delaying scrapping—and moves to build new vessels, with a 3-4 year horizon, have even begun slowly.”

He added that the eeSea’s Trade Capacity Index and Blank Sailings Tracker may be accessed live on their website for monitoring of trade capacity and blank sailings in 2021.

“It will be updated weekly, and is free for everyone,” said Sundboell.

 Photo by Andy Li on Unsplash

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