TRANS-PACIFIC services operated by major shipping alliances are being disrupted by blank sailings due to factors such as port congestion and the need to balance supply and demand, according to an analysis by Danish maritime consultancy Sea-Intelligence.

The analysis compared routes between Asia and the North American West Coast to determine whether there were differences in blank sailings across 2M Alliance, Ocean Alliance, and THE Alliance services.

The purpose of the analysis was to learn whether challenges facing the shipping industry had an impact on the frequency of blank sailings in the Transpacific region between January 2020 and September 2021.   

Source: Sea-Intelligence

“One trend seen in our analysis was that services most disrupted by blank sailings in 2020 and 2021 were also inherently more prone to blank sailings historically,” Sea-Intelligence CEO Alan Murphy said.

“This strongly suggests that carriers have a clear preference to blank sailing on specific services, irrespective if the cause of such blanking is a need to balance supply and demand, or if it is due to the current levels of port congestion.”

Mr Murphy said that there is currently not enough capacity to match demand, and that even the most undisrupted services have been reporting congestion.

“No matter the circumstance, carriers do seem to prefer blank sailings on particular services.”

THE Alliance – comprised of Hapag-Lloyd, ONE, and Yang Ming – had a significant gap between its most and least frequently disrupted services, with its Pacific South Loop 5 (PS5) between Central China, Japan, and the US West Coast blanking once every three weeks.

THE Alliance’s Pacific South Loop 8 (PS8) between South China and the US West Coast was the least disrupted service analysed, blanking once every 41 weeks.

The average time between blank sailings for 2M Alliance was as short as three weeks on Maersk’s TP8 and MSC’s Orient trans-Pacific route (TP8/Orient).

The longest length of time between blank sailings for 2M Alliance was 13 weeks on their TP6 and Pearl trans-Pacific route (TP6/Pearl).

Ocean Alliance – which comprises COSCO, OOCL, CMA CGM and Evergreen – experienced the most disruptions to their Pearl River Express (PRX) route between South China and the US West Coast, which blanked every five weeks.

Ocean Alliance’s least disrupted service was the Northwest Express (NWX) route between Asia and the North American West Coast, blanking every 31 weeks.