Container shipping lines in the Asia-Europe trade are planning to skip 27 per cent of their originally scheduled sailings in the first seven weeks of 2023, reports Alphaliner.
The shipping lines had planned to offer a total of 196 sailings between 1 January and 17 February, but 53 of these voyages have been cancelled due to a lack of cargo demand.
The number of cancelled sailings could increase after the week-long Chinese New Year Holidays finds Alphaliner.
The firm noted that it has become common practice for container lines to cancel sailings during the lull weeks following Chinese New Year. Conversely, the weeks prior to the holiday usually witness a small surge in exports from China, as shipments are made before factories shut down and production slows significantly.
Despite some newcomers – such as CULines and Allseas dropping out of the Asia-Europe trades – the major carriers this year still decreased the number of westbound departures before the holiday.
Alphaliner recorded 69 vessels embarking on a round trip to North Europe or the Mediterranean from their first Far Eastern loading port between 1 and 20 January.
Normally, alliance loops would have seen 84 westbound departures during this period.
According to preliminary data from Container Trades Statistics, cargo volumes between Asia and Europe fell by 18.4 per cent in November and by an even greater 25.9 per cent in October.
The cancellation of sailings ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays indicates that demand for cargo from Asia has yet to recover, concludes Alphaliner.
The 2M-partners, Maersk and MSC, reduced the number of westbound departures ahead of the holiday, resulting in a 29 per cent reduction in the number of 2M sailings in the first seven weeks of the year.
The OCEAN Alliance has also reduced the number of westbound voyages by 23 per cent, with the COSCO-operated Far East-North Europe loop being the worst affected.
THE Alliance has been the most active carrier group in limiting the number of sailings from the Far East to Europe, with a 36 per cent reduction in sailings.
“The big carriers do not only skip sailings to adjust capacity supply to the lower cargo demand, but also to avoid a further erosion of spot ocean freight rates from China. So far however, this capacity management has not helped much to lessen the downward pressure on rates,” reports Alphaliner.