Ocean carrier vessel arrivals from Asia are being delayed by 20 days, or more, and there is no improvement in sight.
Widespread port congestion, equipment shortages and a lack of ships will push the return of some form of ‘normal’ in liner shipping back to the second half of next year, at the earliest, says one analyst.
Relief will come with additional container stock, to mitigate the impact of longer dwell times for boxes, and more importantly, the delivery of new tonnage in 2022/2023, across all sizes.
This will follow the fallow period of newbuild ordering that has left the industry scrambling for ships, particularly smaller sizes.
“It is easy to be blinded by the major problems – Los Angeles/Long Beach, then Suez and now Yantian – and arrive at the assumption that they are caused by a few large congestion zones,” said Lars Jensen, CEO and partner at Vespucci Maritime.
“Unfortunately, that would be incorrect, as congestion problems are widespread.”
Indeed, it was reported on the 2M’s announcement that it would omit Rotterdam for seven weeks on three Asia-North Europe loops, closely followed by THE Alliance decision to “temporarily drop” the eastbound call of its Asia-North Europe FE4 loop at the port, due to “ongoing congestion”.
Last week 2M partners Maersk and MSC said they would extend the deletion of the Hamburg call on their AE7/Condor loop for a further four weeks, due to “high yard density and exceptional waiting time for our vessels”.
Talking today, eeSea CEO and founder Simon Sundboell said on-time schedule reliability had fallen “through the floor”.
Schedule Reliability on Asia-Europe, transpacific and transatlantic trades (source: eeSea)
“We’re seeing vessels at 20-day-plus delays and the global schedule reliability ratio is just sad to look at,” he added.
Commenting on eeSea’s latest on-time performance data (graph above) covering the three main headhaul east-west trades with a last port call in Asia, the analyst said: “While I only have schedule reliability numbers dating back to 2019, the 5.5-day average delay for all vessels on these trades is surely the lowest in my career.”
“Carriers are doing what they can to catch up, under the circumstances, I’ll give them that. However, this causes blank sailings and lost capacity, whether communicated or not, and that also equates to a loss of earnings for the shipping line,” he added.
Mr Sundboell said the congestion on the US west coast, the Suez Canal blockage, stoppage at Yantian and the overwhelming of many of North Europe container hub ports had combined to postpone normalisation in container shipping.
“I don’t see normalisation before H2 22,” he said, admitting that this was a “unscientific gut feel”.
By Mike Wackett first appearing in The Loadstar