Shippers and shipping lines will have to get used to ad hoc arrangements as more and more blank sailings throw logistics plans out of kilter.
According to Alan Murphy, CEO of consultancy Sea-Intelligence, in the past week, the number of blank sailings announced following the spread of the pandemic increased from two to 45 on the main deep-sea trades.
He says quite a few of the blank sailings from all the alliances are made with a notice time much shorter than usual.
“This fact is a clear indication that the drop-off in booking levels is happening very quickly. Furthermore, the effect of the virus outbreak in China was the cancellation of more than 100 sailings and we should therefore expect the pandemic spread to have an even more substantial impact.”
All in all, he says, both shippers and carriers are entering a period where a significant amount of time and effort needs to go into exception handling. “When shippers see a sharp decline in demand for their goods, they naturally have fewer containers to ship, and hence have no choice but to book significantly less cargo than originally planned.
“When carriers see such a sharp drop in booking activity, they have no choice but to cancel sailings - and this leads to a need to re-arrange supply chains. But given the high uncertainty in world markets no-one knows exactly how long this will last.”