Large-scale sailing cancellations expected for months to come

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A large container ship sailing out of port with fog on the horizon.

Maritime research consultancy Drewry has said it believes that carriers will continue a practice of large-scale cancellations of sailings for months to come.

The practice of cancelling sailings has been the strategy put in place by the carriers to address huge volume drops across major container trades globally since the outbreak of COVID-19.

As part of Drewry’s Coronavirus Hub the consultancy has been monitoring cancelled sailings, helping fright forwarders face the daily operational challenges caused by this high level of uncertainty.

Looking at the figures

The highest sailing cancellation since the COVID-19 outbreak was in February, registering a spike of 105 cancellations across Transpacific and Asia-North Europe & Mediterranean trades; the lowest was in March, with only 33 cancellations, representing a drop of 69% from the previous month.

The total sailings withdrawn on the Transpacific, Transatlantic & Asia-North Europe/Mediterranean trades in May 2020 is 82 out of 457 scheduled sailings for this period (18%).

The Alliance has the highest number of cancelled sailings during this period (34%), followed by 2M (30%) & Ocean Alliance (21%).

The Transpacific Trade is the most affected by the reduction of capacity, with 45 blank sailings, which represents 55% of the total blank sailings in May, followed by Asia-North Europe & Mediterranean trade (34%), and Europe & Mediterranean-North America trade (11%).

Figure 1: The Blank Sailings Tracker by major carriers, May 2020
Figure 1: The Blank Sailings Tracker by major carriers, May 2020 (graph: Drwery)

Overall, the number of cancellations has decreased between April and May by 12%, apart from the Transpacific trade, where we see an increase of cancelled sailings of 32%.

Drewry advices that shippers and forwarders not only check carefully the situation before booking but also extend their lead times in case of operational delays.

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