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Carrier reliability still poor on Asia-Europe but rising steadily    07/02/2018
The average schedule reliability on Asia-Europe and Asia-Mediterranean trades in 2017 was the second-lowest ever recorded, according to SeaIntel data, despite carriers steadily improving their on-time performance throughout the year.

Hapag-Lloyd's Chicago Express in the Port of Hamburg. Photo credit: Hapag-Lloyd.

At 76.4 percent, average schedule reliability on Asia-Europe was down 3 percent compared with 2016, while Asia-Mediterranean on-time performance was 9 percent down on the previous year at 74.6 percent.

But behind the poor full-year percentages, the month-by-month figures show schedule reliability improving dramatically from dismal lows in February after Lunar New Year (63.3 percent on Asia-Europe, 58.7 percent on Asia-Mediterranean) to the second highest on-time performance ever recorded in December. Carriers on Asia-Europe in December were on time on average of 86.3 percent, while on the Asia-Mediterranean, the trade percentage rose to 85.7 percent.

The redrawn container shipping alliances that launched on April 1 completely changed schedules and port calls with carriers often working with new partners. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the unchanged 2M Alliance of Maersk Line and Mediterranean Shipping Co., apart from adding Hyundai Merchant Marine as a partner, ended the year as the most reliable carrier. 

Globally, the Ocean Alliance also performed well in 2017. For the eight months May through December 2017, the alliance of Cosco Shipping, OOCL, CMA CGM, and Evergreen recorded an average schedule reliability of 80.8 percent, 5.5 percent above the industry average for the year. 

The same cannot be said for THE Alliance of Hapag-Lloyd, NYK, MOL, “K” Line, and Yang Ming, SeaIntel data show. THE Alliance was the least reliable alliance with an eight-month average of 66 percent, 9.4 percent below the industry average. SeaIntel said their on-time performance has been steadily dropping, recording a month-over-month decrease in all but one month (August 2017 — 1.2 percent increase) and ending the year with schedule reliability of 57.5 percent in December.

That on-time performance on routes between Asia, Europe, and the Mediterranean is improving was news received well by shippers on the trade. A global beneficial cargo owner supply chain executive based in Europe explained the importance of planning shipments around the schedules.

“We need to respect certain schedules. If we miss the vessel it means we miss the window that a factory needs to continue production. We need our goods loaded and carried as we have negotiated,” he said.

The shipper was not surprised to hear that carriers had been improving the on-time performance through 2017 as that was supported by his company’s own data. “We measure on-time delivery, taking the [estimated time of arrival] at the port and comparing it with actuals. We give a 1 to 5 day margin and we were at 92 percent on time on ocean shipments from Asia to Europe in 2017. I was expecting to see it at 60 to 80 percent on time, but this is really good,” he said.

Another Asia-Europe shipper also highlighted the importance of reliability and the huge problems that were caused when it declined. “If you have a transit time agreed with a carrier but are then delayed for a week in a port, or a sailing is omitted, or a container is rolled, you lose everything that you have negotiated, and it is very frustrating,” he said.

CargoSmart also reviews the schedule reliability of carriers, and found that of the global shipping lines, Evergreen had the best average reliability in 2017 of 71.1 percent, followed by Cosco (69.9 percent), Safmarine (69.7 percent), CMA CGM (69.6 percent), and OOCL (69.4 percent). Maersk Line had a 2017 schedule reliability of 68 percent.  

Interestingly, the visibility solutions provider found that despite the strains that very large vessels put on port operations, mega-vessels did not experience significantly longer-than-average arrival and departure delays than non-mega vessels at Los Angeles, Rotterdam, and Shanghai in 2017. In fact, mega-vessels had stronger arrival performance than non-mega vessels at Los Angeles and Rotterdam in 2017.

But Lars Jensen, CEO of SeaInteligence Consulting, said when mega-ships put ports under pressure, it was not necessarily seen in terms of timeliness, but more in terms of the rapidly increasing complexities ports had to deal with on the land side.

“There is increased compexity in stacking the boxes for loading or unloading when the yard space remains unchanged but the number of containers grow significantly for a single vessel,” he said. “Also the increased number of truck and train and barge turns needed to get the cargo as well as empty container to and from the port side.”


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