Carriers show their hand, Q3 blank sailings proliferate

Carriers are now showing their hand, giving an indication of prospects for global trade in the second half of the year. The prognosis is not good.

Lines in two of the three main alliances have now started announcing blank sailings for Q3 with Copenhagen-based Sea-Intelligence reporting 10-15% of capacity has already been removed on the Asia-Europe tradelane for the third quarter while 5 to 10% has been axed so far on the transpacific to both the west and east coasts of North America. Blanked sailing numbers for May and June on these two main tradelanes stood at approximately 20%, keeping freight rates high.

The Ocean Alliance, which features CMA CGM, Cosco, and Evergreen, has yet to start blanking sailings in earnest for Q3.

The data from Sea-Intelligence shows that the recent reinstatement of some capacity cannot in any way be interpreted as a sign of strong demand.

“That we are now seeing full ships on some trades, and even cargo rolling in ports in Asia, is clearly an indication that too much capacity had been removed, but not an indication of a reversal to norm. If we were to see demand get back to normal – let alone be called ‘strong’ – we should see blank sailings be reduced to zero, which is obviously not the case,” Sea-Intelligence noted its latest Sunday Spotlight report.

Sea-Intelligence reckons there is an approximate 85% correlation between blanked capacity and actual demand declines.

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.
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