“Slidings” Replacing Blank Voyages as Ocean Carriers Stretch Transit Times

Ocean carriers are looking to extend transit times in a bid to improve schedule reliability and cut costs.

They are starting to add more buffer time into schedules to mitigate the impact of chronic global port congestion, with some alliance carrier members calling for an urgent review of their networks in order to alleviate the costly last-minute disruptions from having to skip ports.

One Asia-North Europe carrier source told The Loadstar this week that its live schedules were, in some cases, “almost unrecognisable” from the official network.

“If you have to wait off a UK port for a week and then eventually decide to skip and dump the boxes in Zeebrugge, Rotterdam or Bremerhaven, then the schedule is totally shot to pieces,” he said.

“Some of us have been arguing that we have to build more buffer time into the schedules and, by doing so, we would actually save costs by not having to make last-minute port changes,” he said.

“Now that it looks like the demand spike will continue until at least the Chinese New Year – and our visibility suggests maybe as far out as Easter – I think we will have to look more closely at what we can do to improve reliability and add more certainty to the network,” he added.

Container schedule reliability slumped to a record low of 50.1% in November, according to a SeaIntelligence analysis. CEO Alan Murphy warned shippers that “with widespread port congestion, and with carriers not letting off capacity-wise until at least the CNY”, that schedule reliability was unlikely to improve until the second quarter of next year.

(Source: The Loadstar)