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Schedule Reliability at Low Point for Global Container Carriers

schedule reliability for global container carriers
Schedule reliability remains low with containter ships still backed up at ports (MXSOCAL)

Published Dec 28, 2021 5:59 PM by The Maritime Executive

Global schedule reliability continues to be at the absolute bottom of the range and below the average for the year during November 2021. While the average delay for late-arriving vessels appeared to be declining as a possible sign of future improvement, only a third of carriers were reliably on schedule in November according to the monthly data from research firm Sea-Intelligence.

Repeating the same message as past months, Alan Murphy, CEO of Sea-Intelligence again said, “The only continuing positive, if one should call it that, is that schedule reliability has not plummeted further.” Sea-Intelligence tracks schedule reliability across 34 different trade lanes and 60-plus carriers. The data is contained in the Global Liner Performance report.

The report shows that schedule reliability declined month-over-month by 0.6 percentage points to 33.6 percent, in November 2021. While it remains in the range of 33 to 40 percent seen throughout the year, last month was second-lowest to only August which was reported at 33.4 percent. The average for the whole of 2021 is 36 percent and that compares to nearly 66 percent for the whole of 2020.

“The average delay for late vessel arrivals, on the other hand, dropped down to 6.93 days,” said Murphy, “albeit still the highest figure for this month, which has been a recurring theme in 2021.” The delay had been over seven days for each of the last four months and was nearly eight days in August 2021. For all of 2021, the delay has averaged nearly 6.8 days.

All of the major carriers are experiencing a decline in schedule reliability with Sea-Intelligence reporting that only Maersk and Hamburg Sud, which are less dependent on Asia, were able to remain above 40 percent reliability. Maersk was the only carrier among the 14 largest to report less than a double-digit decline in year-over-year comparisons. As expected, the regional carriers and ones originating in Asia have been among the hardest hit. Sea-Intelligence reports that COSCO, Evergreen, OOCL, and Wan Hai, each experienced declines greater than 30 percent in year-over-year comparisons on schedule reliability during November 2021. 

While Sea-Intelligence reports the overall container industry had 33.6 percent schedule reliability, the number among the 14 largest carriers was far worse. For November, the report sets the average schedule reliability at just over 24 percent for these carriers.

Few experts are predicting any short-term improvement in the challenges faced by the container shipping industry. For example, the Marine Exchange of Southern California reported at the beginning of this week that there were still 97 containerships backed up on their way to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. While the ports are reporting continued progress on moving long dwell time containers, there are 23 containerships within the ports’ 40-mile radius either at anchor or slow steaming waiting for terminal space. Another 74 containerships have also registered for space and are currently slow steaming across the Pacific or waiting beyond the radius for their spot in the queue.