Congestion issues at US west coast ports contributed to lower on-time containership reliability in November, according to Drewry’s new Carrier Performance Insight report.
With waiting times at anchor outside of USWC ports reportedly running to one week in some cases, carriers’ schedule reliability has understandably taken a big hit. The report indicates that transpacific ships were on average 2.4 days later than scheduled in November, more than twice the normal deviation.
Inevitably, the main culprits were ships scheduled to dock at the most affected ports with the on-time percentage for ships calling at either Los Angeles or Long Beach down to only 41% in October and 46% in November, when it had been around 90% in July.
Transpacific carriers are speeding ships on the return leg to Asia in order to maintain some semblance of the weekly pattern, but schedules are not expected to get back to normality anytime soon.
Drewry cautions that, if they are not already, US importers must prepare for further delays or consider switching to the much more expensive air freight option.
In an attempt to ease the situation, carriers are temporarily suspending some calls at USWC ports and it seems very likely that others will follow the lead. Entering the slack season, lower volumes will at least give some respite but fundamental issues need to be addressed by the industry’s stakeholders if this not to be a recurring theme.
Schedule integrity on the main East-West container trades decreased by 1.9 percentage points in November with the aggregate on-time performance for the Asia-Europe, Transpacific and Transatlantic trades falling to 62.4% for the month, down from 64.3% in October.
The monthly decline was the result of weaker performances in the Transatlantic (557 scheduled voyages tracked) and the transpacific (6,937 voyages) trades. Transatlantic reliability was only 58.9% in November, down from 74.2% in the previous month. The on-time performance of the transpacific declined by a smaller margin to 50.7% (from 56.6% in October) but with more voyages it makes a bigger contribution to the total monthly change.
Reliability in the Asia-Europe trade (6,937 voyages) improved by 1% point month-on-month to 68.8%, which helped keep the total reliability result from falling even further by virtue of having the most voyages of all the trades.
There remains a wide variance between the most and least reliable carriers. Maersk Line was the most reliable carrier in November even though its overall on-time percentage was lower than achieved in October, dropping from 83.5% to 79.2%. COSCO was the second most reliable carrier with 71.1%, followed by Hamburg Süd (70.6%) and K Line (68.6%).
At the other end of the spectrum, PIL and Zim have struggled, with on-time results hovering just below 50%.
Drewry concludes that with the US west coast port situation no nearer to being resolved, shippers must be prepared for further operational disruption well into the first months of 2015.