The number of blank sailings has reached the lowest level recorded since the pandemic started – and while it’s not perfect, it’s certainly worth celebrating.
While the level is not zero, no one should expect zero blank sailings as a normal state of affairs, according to maritime consultancy Sea-Intelligence.
“The conditions on the global container shipping markets are continuing their path towards normalisation,” says CEO Alan Murphy. “However, a normal container shipping market is not the same as a container shipping market with no changes or disruptions; there will always be operational disruptions, a portion of which will be in the form of blank sailings.”
Murphy has analysed the number of total weekly sailings being blanked on the Asia-North America West Coast trade. “We can see that at its worst (and disregarding the peaks), one in every four sailings was being cancelled. This clearly improved during 2023 and went below 10% in June. But we also see a slight uptick again, as we approach early July – likely a reflection of the carriers wanting to bring the spot rate decline under control.”
Looking at the Asia-North America West Coast trade in conjunction with the other Transpacific and the two Asia-Europe trades (shown in Figure 1), the trends on each trade more or less move in an identical fashion, he adds.
“There are a few deviations, however, especially for Asia-North America West Coast. While the earlier deviation (from 2nd half of 2021) can be explained by the severity of the bottlenecks and vessel queues outside the West Coast ports, no such explanatory model fits the deviation that we see in early 2023.
“That said, shippers operating in the market now should take the current state of affairs as being very normal indeed. This is as good as it gets.”