CONDITIONS in the global container shipping markets are continuing to move towards normalisation, according to shipping industry analyst Sea-Intelligence.

“However, a normal container shipping market is not the same as a container shipping market with no changes or disruptions; there will always be operational disruptions, a portion of which will be in the form of blank sailings,” Sea-Intelligence CEO Alan Murphy said.

“Herein lies the good news for the shippers: the number of blank sailings is at the lowest we have seen since the pandemic started. It is not perfect – the level is not zero.”

However, he said nobody should expect zero blank sailings as a normal state of affairs.

“Looking at the share of total weekly sailings being blanked on the Asia-North America West Coast trade, we can see that at its worst (and disregarding the peaks), one in every four sailings was being cancelled. This clearly improved during 2023 and went below 10% in June,” Mr Murphy said.

“But we also see a slight uptick again, as we approach early July – likely a reflection of the carriers wanting to bring the spot rate decline under control.”

But looking at the the Asia-North America West Coast trade in conjunction with the other trans-Pacific and the two Asia-Europe trades, Mr Murphy said there is an underlying trend where the trends on each trade more-or-less move in an identical fashion.

“There are a few deviations however, especially for Asia-North America West Coast,” he said.

“While the earlier deviation (from 2nd half of 2021) can be explained by the severity of the bottlenecks and vessel queues outside the West Coast ports, no such explanatory model fits the deviation that we see in early 2023.

“That said, shippers operating in the market now should take the current state of affairs as being very normal indeed. This is as good as it gets.”