Drewry, the London-based maritime research and consulting company, said nearly 150 sailings by container carriers were cancelled on the transpacific and Asia-Europe routes between October 2012 and this February, and that "uncertain cargo growth to Europe and the U.S. will encourage ocean carriers to continue with short-term vessel capacity planning, which means more sailing cancellations to come
"The problem will be exacerbated as service upgrades enforced by newbuild deliveries and cascading gains momentum
," Drewry said in its new online product Container Insight Weekly
Drewry noted that unlike withdrawing services, canceling sailings sometimes leaves shippers "confronted with unexpected space shortages and roll-overs, as surrounding vessels quickly fill up. In this sense, the average capacity reduction of between 2 percent and 7 percent achieved so far by sailing cancellations is deceptively small."
Rate improvements gained through vessel cancellations have been short-lived due to their temporary nature of the operational measure.
While cancelled or "blanked" voyages have been used in the past, Drewry said "What is new is the extended period of the practice, which suggests that it could in future become the norm, although nothing has yet been announced for March and April."
Maersk Line Chief Executive Officer Soren Skou said last week at the Journal of Commerce
's TPM 2013 conference that the container shipping industry has done a good job of managing short-term changes in demand through the use of cancelled sailings around Chinese New Year.
“It is an really important and quite sensible strategy by the industry because it allows us to save costs, because we are not sailing half-empty ships, we are filling up some ships and not using others and saving the fuel cost,” Skou said. - Chris Dupin