Blank sailings proliferate

Major ocean carrier alliances have announced additional cancellations totalling more than a third of the scheduled sailings out of Asia through early June, according to container platform Freightos. Data provider project44 shows that Maersk and MSC are the carriers who are leading the charge to blank sailings.

Between weeks 17 to 23, according to project44, THE Alliance will blank 33% of its scheduled sailings from Asia, the Ocean Alliance will void 37%, while the 2M alliance of MSC and Maersk will cancel 39% of its headhaul voyages.

The Asia – US west coast route has seen the highest amount of blank sailings over the past five weeks both in absolute volume and as a share of offered capacity, according to container data platform Xeneta.

Between April 4 and May 8, 63 sailings on this tradelane were blanked, removing a total of 517,300 teu, 25% of the initial capacity offering.

Freightos’s head of research Judah Levine said the cut capacity could stabilise container rates out of Asia to Europe and the US west coast, which have fallen by more than 20% since the initial shutdown in Shanghai in March.

Drewry’s container index continued its long slide today. The weekly global index dropped by 0.9% to $7,657.20 per 40ft container but remains 33.7% higher than a year ago.

“Carriers have been trying to manage this drop in spot rates by implementing blank sailings while trying to lock shippers on longer-term contracts riding on the previous highs in hopes of extending their honeymoon period,” said Shabsie Levy, CEO of digital freight forwarding platform Shifl.

“Despite the slowdown, projections for ocean import volumes to the US through the summer months remain higher than last year, indicating a pull forward of demand to avoid peak season delays and possible labor disruptions at West Coast ports when an important dockworker labor contract expires at the end of June,” an update from Freightos stated.

In Shanghai, under lockdown for more than six weeks, there has been some good news from the official data with China’s largest city getting closer to its goal of only finding new cases among people already in “closed off management”.

Shanghai’s mass testing detected just two new cases outside areas facing the strictest curbs on May 11, officials said on Thursday.

However, showing the tortured path the Shanghainese face to get back to some semblance of normality, the cases were found in two of the city’s 16 districts, Xuhui and Fengxian, that authorities said this week were among eight that had achieved zero-covid status, having had no community cases for three consecutive days.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. Are the container lines becoming more like tramp operators?
    When there is high demand they pile in the tonnage and sort out the chaos later but when there is a dearth of cargo they pull back sailings and equally disregard their schedules.
    Historically, shippers paid a reasonable price for a reasonable and committed service, rain or shine, but currently the container lines seem to operate on a feast or famine basis and roll their services with the market punches.
    Service frequency and reliability (as reported by a couple of the ‘consultants’) is said to be low but this is increasingly of the Lines’ own choosing.

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