Blank sailings surge amid widespread port congestion

Blank sailings surge amid widespread port congestion

According to Sea-Intelligence, shipping companies were compelled to blank sailings despite strong demand and freight rates due to widespread port congestion, resulting in a scarcity of available vessel capacity.

The latest round of blank sailings was reportedly driven by a lack of vessel capacity, with the idle container vessel fleet at a very low 0.9 per cent in April.

In issue 664 of the Sea-Intelligence Sunday Spotlight, the company used data from our Trade Capacity Outlook database to compare the actual capacity deployment in March and April 2024 to what the shipping lines had planned in mid-February 2024 for the Asia-Europe and Transpacific trades.

© Sea-Intelligence

READ: Blank sailings reach post-pandemic low

Figure 1 shows that the blanked capacity ratio between Asia and North Europe nearly quadrupled from March to April, from 12 per cent to 21 per cent.

In Asia-Mediterranean, the percentage of blank capacity shifts from -17 per cent in March to -8 per cent in April.

On the Transpacific, Sea-Intelligence predicts a considerably more consistent development, with a capacity loss of roughly -14 per cent to the West Coast and -11 per cent to the East Coast for March and April 2024.

This suggests that the operating environment in Asia-Europe is substantially more unstable than the Transpacific.

READ: Blank sailings decline as 2023 Golden Week approaches

The Red Sea crisis is driving the surge in blank sailings, as there are almost no idle vessels and market prices have risen dramatically in recent weeks.

Port congestion is rising at key hubs across Asia and Europe, and, as seen during the pandemic, port congestion absorbs supply and may result in capacity shortages.

Alan Murphy, CEO of Sea-Intelligence, said: “As we have said since the start of the Red Sea crisis, there is sufficient capacity to divert vessels around Africa, but not enough additional slack to deal with other major disruptions.

“Port congestion therefore needs to be brought under control, or spot rates could escalate even further, and quite quickly.”

In April, Sea-Intelligence reported that spot rates consistently declined over several months.

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