Shipping article(s)
May 20, 2024

Blank sailings between Asia and North Europe doubled between March and April, according to a new Sea-Intelligence report,  still driven by the ongoing crisis in the Red Sea region.


The Danish maritime consultancy firm noted that blank sailings have traditionally been a tool for shipping lines to manage supply in relation to demand, but during the pandemic, shipping lines were forced to blank sailings despite high demand and high freight rates, as endemic port congestion created a shortage of available vessel capacity.


Alan Murphy, CEO of Sea-Intelligence, noted that the current round of blank sailings is also driven by a shortage of vessel capacity, as the idle container vessel fleet was at a very low 0.9% in April.

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 [Source: Sea-Intelligence]


"As shown in Figure 1, on Asia-North Europe, the ratio of blanked capacity essentially doubled from March to April, from a -12% blank share to -21%," he said.


Murphy noted that for Asia-Mediterranean, "we see the opposite," as the share of blank capacity goes from -17% in March to -8% in April.


Meanwhile, on Transpacific, the report noted that the development is "much more stable", with a capacity reduction of around -14% to the West Coast and -11% to the East Coast for both March and April 2024.


Murphy said this indicates a much more unstable operating environment in Asia-Europe than in Transpacific.


"With virtually no idle vessels, and with spot rates increasing sharply in recent weeks, this increase in blank sailings is driven by the Red Sea crisis," the chief executive of Sea-Intelligence said.


"Port congestion is worsening in key hubs in both Asia and Europe. And as was clearly seen during the pandemic, port congestion soaks up supply and leads to potential capacity shortages," he added.


Murphy emphasized that "there is sufficient capacity to divert vessels around Africa, but not enough additional slack to deal with other major disruptions."


"Port congestion, therefore, needs to be brought under control, or spot rates could escalate even further and quite quickly," he added.

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