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Ocean Freight Spot Rate Growth Slows, but Market Challenges Persist

global trade ocean freight rate

Ocean Freight Spot Rate Growth Slows, but Market Challenges Persist

The rapid increase in ocean freight container shipping spot rates appears to be slowing, though the market remains highly challenging. According to the latest data from Xeneta, an ocean freight rate benchmarking and intelligence platform, spot rates on major trades from the Far East are set to rise again on June 15, but at a slower pace compared to the sharp increases seen in May and early June.

Read also: Freight Rates Are Ballooning to Pandemic Highs 

On June 15, average spot rates from the Far East to the US West Coast will rise by 4.8% to USD 6,178 per 40ft equivalent unit (FEU), a more modest increase compared to the 20% hike on June 1. Similarly, rates to the US East Coast will increase by 3.9% to USD 7,114 per FEU, following a 15% rise on June 1.

Peter Sand, Xeneta’s Chief Analyst, noted, “Any sign of a slowing in the growth of spot rates will be welcomed by shippers, but this remains an extremely challenging situation and it is likely to remain so. The market is still rising and some shippers are still facing the prospect of not being able to ship containers on existing long-term contracts and having their cargo rolled.”

From the Far East to North Europe, average spot rates are projected to increase by 10% on June 15 to USD 6,357 per FEU. Although this is less than the 20% jump on June 1, it remains a significant mid-month rise. Rates to the Mediterranean are set to increase by 7.2% on June 15 to USD 7,048 per FEU, compared to a 19% rise on June 1.

Sand emphasized the ongoing pressures in the market, noting that average spot rates from the Far East are up 276% to the US West Coast and 316% to North Europe compared to mid-December last year. Factors such as the conflict in the Red Sea, port congestion, equipment shortages, and shippers frontloading imports ahead of the Q3 peak season are all contributing to the strained conditions.

The potential breakdown of labor negotiations and threat of union action at US East Coast and Gulf Coast ports could further exacerbate the situation. Additionally, rising spot rates could impact inflation in the US and Europe if these costs are passed on to consumers.

While it is uncertain if spot rates will reach the levels seen during the Covid-19 pandemic, Sand pointed out that numerous factors, including a potential ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, could significantly alter the market landscape.

In summary, despite a slowdown in the rate of increase, the ocean freight container shipping market remains fraught with challenges, with continued upward pressure on spot rates and significant uncertainties ahead.

40Seas global trade import supply chain rate cross-border

May 2024 U.S. Containerized Imports Break 2.3M TEUs

Descartes Systems Group, the global leader in uniting logistics-intensive businesses in commerce, released its June Global Shipping Report for logistics and supply chain professionals.

Read also: 3 Strategies For Importing Goods From The U.S. To Europe

May 2024 U.S. container import volume continued its robust 2024 growth, increasing 6.2% from April and 11.9% when compared to the same month last year.

Imports from China again had a strong month, reaching the second highest monthly volume since January of 2023. Port transit delays continue to improve across the board as there has been little impact on East and Gulf Coast import volumes from either the Panama drought or the Middle East conflict. May’s update of logistics metrics monitored by Descartes reinforces the strength of imports since the beginning of 2024. Despite strong U.S. container imports, the risk of global supply chain disruptions remains high because of ongoing conditions at the Panama and Suez Canals, upcoming labor negotiations at U.S. South Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports, and the Middle East conflict.

Month-over-month and year-over-year, U.S. economy proves to be robust again in May 2024

Versus May 2023, TEU import volume was up 11.9%, continuing to demonstrate exceptional year-over-year performance (see Figure 1). May 2024 U.S. container import volumes moved up from April 2024, increasing 6.2% to 2,346,382 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).

Figure 1. U.S. Container Import Volume Year-over-Year Comparison

Source: Descartes Datamyne™ 

“May was yet another strong month and, for the first five months of 2024, U.S. import container volume is up 15.5% over the same period last year,” said Chris Jones, EVP Industry, Descartes. “Significant increases in imports from China (up 17.6%) in May was the big driver of this growth.”

The June report is Descartes’ thirty-fourth installment since beginning its analysis in August 2021. To read past reports, learn more about the key economic and logistics factors driving the global shipping crisis, and review strategies to help address it in the near-, short- and long-term, visit Descartes’ Global Shipping Resource Center.

global trade St. Lawrence Seaway

A Strong Start to Shipping Shows Resilience on the St. Lawrence Seaway

Early tonnage reports for the 66th navigation season on the St. Lawrence Seaway indicate a robust beginning, showcasing the resilience, predictability, and sustainability of this crucial binational waterway system.

Read also: St. Lawrence Seaway Opens 58th Navigation Season

Thanks to minimal winter ice on the Great Lakes, fleet positioning was expedited, boosting grain and potash traffic. Canadian and U.S. grain shipments have surged by 39,000 metric tonnes compared to the previous year, reaching approximately 1.21 million metric tonnes so far. Similarly, potash traffic has increased by 83,000 tonnes, totaling 110,000 metric tonnes to date. Potash, encompassing various potassium-rich minerals, is essential in fertilizers for enhancing plant growth, crop yield, disease resistance, and water preservation.

“Our commitment to infrastructure renewal underpins the Seaway’s exceptional reliability. Marine transportation remains the most fuel-efficient and cost-effective method for moving goods,” stated Terence Bowles, President and CEO of the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation. “A recent study highlighted that the marine industry in the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway region supports nearly 360,000 jobs and generates $66.1 billion CAD in economic activity.”

Winter maintenance investments by the Canadian St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) and the U.S. Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (GLS) ensure a high state of readiness and reliability. From 2019 to 2024, SLSMC invested around $379 million CAD in infrastructure renewal for Canadian assets, while GLS invested $225 million USD in U.S. assets since 2009. In addition to operating a safe, reliable, and efficient binational waterway and lock system, SLSMC and GLS are partnering with industry stakeholders on the Green Shipping Corridor Network Initiative. This effort underscores their commitment to sustainability, promoting decarbonization, and shaping a sustainable future for the marine sector.

“The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway System is crucial to North America’s economic health, supply chain strength, and our quality of life,” noted Adam Tindall-Schlicht, Administrator of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. “We embrace the significant responsibility of managing this vital infrastructure, meeting it with planning, dedication, and continuous investment to exceed the expectations of businesses and consumers relying on us daily. I thank our team and partners for their continuous efforts and wish all Seaway users a successful shipping season.”

Tonnage statistics for May are forthcoming and are anticipated to show continued positive trends as the St. Lawrence Seaway’s navigation season progresses.

global trade rates freight import

Freight Rates Are Ballooning to Pandemic Highs 

Just as peak shipping season begins, a container capacity crunch could push rates to higher levels than previously seen with the Red Sea spike. Since January, major shipping and transportation firms such as DHL have been sounding the alarm over a pending container crunch. The Houthi attacks resulted in longer routes with more containers at sea and unavailable to be reloaded. Couple this with inclement weather impacting Chinese, Malaysian, and Singaporean ports, and the crunch is causing freight spot rates to jump as much as 30% over the past couple of weeks. 

Read also: Container Rates Surge Amid The Red Sea Crisis

The pandemic gave rise to some of the most severe capacity crunches in recent memory. Freight forwarders were pushed to premium rates just to acquire space guarantees, and the current environment is shaping up similarly. During March and April, many carriers were able to rely on idle vessels to offset some of the longer voyages and keep containers transiting at a reasonable pace. The result, however, is little, if any, excess capacity in the market. 

Earlier in the year, the previous high for a container was between $3,000 and $5,000. Rates at that time were nearly double those a year earlier. One of the factors driving inflation during the pandemic years was logistics price increases. The consumer ultimately pays when freight rates increase, and current events suggest a similar pattern moving forward. 

MSC had already announced rates of $8,000 to $10,000 for 40-foot containers en route to the US West Coast, while Wan Hai will be charging for “space protection.” Drewry, the maritime shipping research firm, noted a total of 17 canceled sailings between the last two weeks of May and the first two weeks of June on the Transpacific route, and logistics managers were rumored to be moving up peak season from July to June in an attempt to get ahead of any delays.   

Adding to the complexity, a potential strike or significant labor slowdown is on the horizon at the US East Coast and Gulf ports in the fall. A looming threat that could disrupt operations significantly, much depends on upcoming negotiations between the International Longshoremen’s Association, who represent the ports, and the US Maritime Alliance. 

global trade ship baltimore bridge

Cargo Ship’s Power Failures Blamed for Baltimore Bridge Collapse

Federal investigators revealed that the cargo ship Dali experienced power blackouts hours before it left the Port of Baltimore and again just before it collided with the Francis Key Bridge, resulting in the deaths of six construction workers. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) detailed these findings in a preliminary report on Tuesday, marking the most comprehensive account of the incident to date.

Read also: Baltimore Takes Legal Action Against Ship Owner and Operator Following Bridge Collision

The first power outage occurred roughly 10 hours before departure, triggered by a crew member mistakenly closing an exhaust damper during maintenance, which caused one of the ship’s diesel engines to stall. A backup generator kicked in but soon failed due to insufficient fuel pressure, leading to a second blackout. The crew then reconfigured the ship’s electrical system in preparation for departure.

Shortly after setting sail on March 26, the Dali lost steering and propulsion near the bridge due to another power outage caused by tripped breakers. This failure occurred as the ship approached the bridge, rendering it unable to avoid crashing into one of the bridge’s support columns.

The NTSB report describes how crew members scrambled to address these electrical issues, manually resetting breakers and attempting to restore power. Despite their efforts, the ship experienced another blackout just before the crash. Pilots on board called for tugboats, attempted to drop anchor, and issued a mayday call, but it was too late to prevent the disaster.

The collision caused the 1.6-mile steel span to collapse into the Patapsco River, killing six workers who were on a break in their vehicles. One worker survived by escaping his truck, and a road maintenance inspector narrowly avoided the collapse by running to safety.

The Dali, en route to Sri Lanka with shipping containers and supplies, was grounded amid the wreckage of the bridge. On Monday, a controlled demolition was conducted to remove the remaining span of the bridge from the ship’s bow. The Dali is expected to be refloated and returned to the Port of Baltimore soon.

The NTSB continues to investigate the power failures and is working with Hyundai, the manufacturer of the ship’s electrical system, to determine the cause of the breaker issues. The final report, which will include more detailed findings, is expected to take over a year to complete. Meanwhile, the FBI has launched a criminal investigation into the circumstances leading up to the collapse.

The Dali had arrived in the U.S. from Singapore on March 19, making stops in Newark, New Jersey, and Norfolk, Virginia, before docking in Baltimore. Investigators noted that there were no reported power outages at these other ports.

The NTSB’s mission, as stated by board chair Jennifer Homendy, is to understand why and how the incident occurred to prevent future tragedies.

global trade container

Container Rates Surge Amid The Red Sea Crisis

In response to the escalating Red Sea crisis, leading online container logistics platform Container xChange released a comprehensive report detailing the far-reaching effects on container trading and leasing rates worldwide. The report explores the intricate dynamics of the crisis, shedding light on the unprecedented surge in container prices and leasing rates, as well as the ripple effect on global trade routes.

Read also: Red Sea Global Trade Disruptions: How to Overcome the Chaos

1. IMPACT OF RED SEA ATTACKS ON CONTAINER PRICES

As container vessels take longer routes, capacity constraints contribute to a revival in container rates. The China-to-Europe trade lane has witnessed significant surges, with trading spot rates soaring in key Chinese ports. The disruptions are not confined to China; leasing rates bound for Hamburg, Germany, have doubled since Jan 1.

To provide context on the current state of average container prices in Shanghai, China, in comparison to the peak demand period during the COVID-19 pandemic (2021), we present a chart illustrating the price trends from 2020 to Jan. 29, 2024. The container prices skyrocketed to historic levels in 2021 due to the pent-up demand post COVID, reaching a peak of $6,171 in the last week of September 2021, and falling since then until December 2023 (keeping aside minor seasonal hikes). However, container prices have experienced a significant increase since the beginning of January 2024. 

Weekly China-Europe Trading spot rates continue to shoot up: Trading spot rates for 40-foot-high cube cargo-worthy containers have witnessed a significant surge in key Chinese ports. Noticeable week-on-week increases have been recorded in Xiamen (23%), Shekou (19%), Guangzhou (10%), Huangpu (8%), and Nansha (8%). These disruptions are not confined to China; leasing rates bound for Hamburg have doubled since Jan. 1.

“Since the beginning of the Houthi situation, the trading prices for 40-foot-high cube units in China significantly increased because there is expected tightness around equipment availability in Chinese main ports ahead of Chinese New Year because the loop around Africa soaks up capacity and delays the return of empty equipment to China,” commented Christian Roeloffs, cofounder and CEO of Container xChange.

“At present, there is still surplus in the market. However, the challenge lies in securing space on vessels, and the PUCs (pickup charges) are considerably high. The suppliers are hesitant to reposition their containers to locations with elevated storage fees, and if they do, they often seek to offset these costs by demanding higher PUC.”

A Container xChange customer from India added, “Storage charges in India are inexpensive. Consequently, some NVOCC [non-vessel operating common carriers] opt to utilize containers from other companies rather than moving their own.”

Container xChange’s research indicates a global impact on container trading prices, with the top 10 locations experiencing substantial month-on-month percentage increases. European ports like Le Havre, France, and Duisburg, Germany, witnessed significant decreases, while ports in North America showed mixed results. Meanwhile, Asian ports, including Shanghai, China, and Xiamen, China, saw an increase in average container prices, indicating adaptation to disruptions.

Shown above are the top 10 locations with biggest percentage increase in average monthly container prices across the world.

There are varying degrees of impact on container prices across different regions. Some regions experienced a decrease in prices, while others saw an increase. 

2. CONTAINER LEASING RATES CONTINUE TO RISE

Container leasing spot rates have mirrored the spikes observed in trading prices, especially in the China-to-Europe route. Rates have steadily increased, reaching notable highs. The expected continuation of disruptions indicates a prolonged period of challenges, requiring industries to adapt to structural imbalances in supply and demand.

“We’ve witnessed a continuous surge in leasing rates since around August-September 2023, starting at a low of approximately $200 for a one-way move from Ningbo or Shanghai to Hamburg, often referred to as pickup charges,” says Roeloffs. 

“This escalation is primarily driven by two key factors. Firstly, the widening price gap in trading prices has played a pivotal role, and secondly, there’s a notable equipment scarcity across China. As the price gap widens and equipment availability tightens, the spike has become more evident since the beginning of 2024. It’s clear that the attacks in the Red Sea are not merely a passing phenomenon; they have substantial implications on the routing of container vessels, causing delays in their return trips to China. We have witnessed this surge to top at $800 for a one-way move, marking a fourfold increase.”

The Container xChange co-founder and CEO continues, “We do expect that after Chinese New Year the situation will decelerate and ease up owing to the drop in demand, carriers will be able to reconfigure their network and adjust to the longer transit times around the cape of good hope and are supposed to have a structural supply demand imbalance with a significance supply overhang.” 

He concludes, “The situation is expected to persist for a longer than expected period of time and hence, we will probably have to live with this for a long time.”

Top trade routes with highest month-on-month rate hikes: In the period from Jan. 1-30, 2024, leasing rates for routes bound to Hamburg showed a substantial increase. For example, Qingdao to Hamburg rates surged from $260 on Jan. 1 to $1,060 by Jan. 30. Similarly, Shenzhen to Hamburg rates rose from $500 on Jan. 1 to $750 by Jan. 30. These figures highlight a significant upward trend in leasing rates during the specified timeframe, illustrating the impactful changes in the market.

Below is the list of the highest spikes noticed month on month from December 2023 to January 2024 across trade routes. The prices are the average leasing terms for SOCs (shipper owned containers) as observed on the Insights platform of Container xChange.

 European ports experience substantial increases: Routes connecting Shanghai to European ports, such as Le Havre, Budapest, and Munich, witnessed some of the highest percentage increases. Le Havre recorded an extraordinary surge of 323.08%. This indicates potential challenges in the European supply chain, possibly due to the longer alternative route and increased shipping costs.

Impact on trans-Pacific routes: Routes to the West Coast of the United States, including Oakland, Los Angeles, and Long Beach, all in California, experienced notable increases (ranging from 30.94% to 51.71%). The rise in leasing rates suggests that vessels rerouting around the Cape of Good Hope are facing higher costs, potentially due to increased travel distances and fuel consumption.

Significant impact on transatlantic routes: Routes connecting Shanghai to key North American cities like New York, New York, and Cleveland, Ohio, witnessed considerable percentage increases. This indicates that the disruption is affecting the traditional transatlantic trade routes, with potential repercussions for industries relying on timely deliveries between Asia and North America.

Mixed impact on Asian routes: While routes to Chennai, India, experienced a substantial increase (73.33%), routes to Minsk, Belarus, showed a comparatively lower percentage rise (19.17%). This suggests variations in how disruptions affect different regions, possibly influenced by the nature of trade and supply chain dynamics.

3. INDUSTRIES IMPACTED BY RED SEA TURMOIL

The longer disruptions at the Red Sea trade route pose a significant threat to various industries, including automobiles, electronics, chemicals, consumer goods, machinery, and pharmaceuticals. Delays in the supply chain could lead to production interruptions, impacting global value chains.

“Effectively navigating this critical period requires enhanced predictive analysis, meticulous demand forecasting, and increased collaboration within the industry,” says Roeloffs. “By employing advanced planning techniques and maintaining agility in response to evolving situations, the manufacturing sector can not only overcome immediate challenges but also strategically position itself for long-term success. Adapting to the new normal will involve holding increased inventory, accounting for extended transit times, and acknowledging higher container rates as integral components of the evolving landscape.”

The impact extends beyond individual industries to the broader economy, emphasizing the vulnerability of just-in-time manufacturing processes to disruptions. Businesses across sectors will need to closely monitor and adapt to evolving circumstances to ensure the continued flow of goods through alternative routes if necessary.

A remarkably positive outlook on container price development: In January, the Container Price Sentiment Index (xCPSI), a proprietary container price sentiment tool by Container xChange, consistently maintained historically elevated levels, reflecting a widespread belief that container prices would continue to soar due to the ongoing Red Sea crisis. The industry anticipates sustained high prices, highlighting the profound impact of the crisis on global trade.

The industry’s expectation for container prices to remain exceptionally high in the foreseeable future urges businesses to stay agile and vigilant in their planning amidst evolving global trade dynamics.

The Container Price Sentiment Index (xCPSI) serves as a valuable metric for assessing the prevailing market sentiments among supply chain professionals on the anticipated trajectory of container prices in the upcoming weeks.

Container xChange serves as a global online platform facilitating container leasing and trading, connecting container users with owners. The platform streamlines the process of finding and exchanging containers, optimizing fleet management, and fostering collaboration across the shipping industry. Currently, 1,500+ vetted container logistics companies trust xChange with their business.

 

u.s container imports global trade

Resilient U.S. Economy Keeps Container Imports Strong Through Peak Season

In the midst of global uncertainties and economic shifts, the United States’ major container ports stand as beacons of resilience, with inbound cargo volume projected to maintain its robustness well into the summer and early fall months. The National Retail Federation’s latest findings from its Global Port Tracker report paint a picture of sustained strength, showcasing the buoyancy of both the U.S. economy and the container shipping market.

Read also: November Sees 9% Drop in US Container Imports; Panama Drought Affects East and Gulf Coast Ports

Jonathan Gold, NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy, emphasized the enduring demand as consumers continue to shop, prompting retailers to ensure ample merchandise availability. Despite recent disruptions, the supply chain has adapted admirably, facilitating a smooth flow of goods as the nation gears up for the upcoming back-to-school and holiday seasons.

Ben Hackett, Founder of Hackett Associates, echoed these sentiments, highlighting a consistent influx of goods into ports, even amidst a notable shift from goods to services in consumer spending habits. This resilience is evident despite challenges such as fluctuations in containerized products, geopolitical tensions, higher interest rates, and a tempered pace of economic growth.

The surge in container imports is not confined to a single coast, with the Gulf Coast leading the charge, closely followed by the Pacific and East Coast ports. The trajectory of this surge remains uncertain, prompting speculation on whether it will sustain its momentum or plateau in the near future.

March saw U.S. ports handling 1.93 million TEU, marking a slight dip from February but still reflecting a noteworthy 18.7% increase from the same period in 2023. Looking ahead, May is poised to tie October’s record high, with a projected volume of 2.06 million TEU, showcasing the enduring strength of the container shipping sector.

The report’s forecast for the first half of 2024 anticipates a total of 11.9 million TEU, representing a substantial 13% surge compared to the previous year. This forecast underlines a consistent upward trend, reinforcing the resilience and vitality of the U.S. container shipping industry amidst a dynamic global landscape.

Maersk global trade rate

Shippers Frustrated as Spot rates Rise With Demand

As demand surges on the Asia-European trades, carriers and forwarders find themselves grappling with escalating spot rates, leading to frustrations among shippers and logistical challenges. The unexpected tightening of space has heightened concerns about shipments under long-term contracts being rolled, adding complexity to an already volatile market.

European forwarders report a surge in inquiries from customers facing allocation issues, attributing the dilemma to the disparity between contract rates and soaring spot rates. With carriers prioritizing higher-paying cargo during peak periods, the situation has raised questions about the origin of this sudden surge in demand.

Maersk CEO Vincent Clerc shed light on the situation during the first-quarter earnings call, suggesting a period of restocking among European importers. With a notable 9% growth in volumes into Europe, the trend reflects a shift from cautiousness to restocking as consumption holds better than anticipated.

Spot rates on key trade routes, such as the Shanghai-Rotterdam and Shanghai-Genoa legs, have seen significant week-on-week growth, further exacerbating concerns among shippers. Many are already paying premiums to avoid rollovers, signaling a market under strain.

The introduction of new Freight All Kinds (FAK) rates and peak season surcharges by major carriers like MSC and Maersk adds to the complexities faced by shippers. With rates set to triple and additional surcharges imposed, concerns arise about the justification and transparency of these fee hikes.

Shippers express frustration over the lack of communication from carriers and the rapid escalation of surcharges, questioning their necessity and impact on the overall supply chain. The tightening space, attributed to schedule slidings rather than blanked sailings, further complicates matters, leading to reduced allocations on long-term contracts.

As the industry braces for continued volatility, forwarders warn of challenges ahead, anticipating elevated rates and capacity constraints well into the peak season. The uncertainty surrounding rate fluctuations and space availability underscores the need for adaptive strategies and effective communication between stakeholders to navigate the evolving landscape of global shipping.

autonomous

Eventual Autonomous Shipping Faces Considerable Hurdles 

Autonomous transport technologies first began with driving and flying. Drones have worked exceptionally well while driving continues to improve. Autonomous shipping is similar in terms of technology and mechanics, but building trust among regulators and freight owners has proven to be a significant stumbling block to widespread adoption. 

Read also: World’s First Official Test Bed for Autonomous Shipping Opens in Norway

AUTOSHIP (Autonomous Shipping Initiative for European Waters) is an EU-funded initiative that triumphantly operated an autonomous ship from the coast of Norway last year for a nearly 13-hour journey. The expedition itself was a success, but there wasn’t cargo or much else at risk. South Korea’s Samsung Heavy Industry (SHI) performed a similar feat in 2020 when the Samsung T-8 vessel performed an autonomous journey at Geoje Island, much of it guided via sensor and radar technology. 

Like autonomous driving, the International Maritime Organization has defined four levels of maritime autonomy. Level 1 still involves seafarers on board to control and operate ship functions, while some minor operations can be automated. Eventually, the ship moves to Level 4, with no seafarers on board and no remote control. At Level 4, the vessel makes decisions and determines actions on its own. 

Context is by far the biggest challenge for machines. Once vessels enter busier waters or are closer to land, other vessels, infrastructure such as offshore wind farms, and similar obstacles emerge. Even at sea, there are a host of hidden hazards that humans are adept at navigating, but it is still unknown whether a machine can successfully avoid collisions. 

The 13-hour AUTOSHIP voyage was a success, but learning in real-time with real cargo can be dangerous and costly. Another timely issue in the current geopolitical context is piracy. While freight owners would undoubtedly prefer a crew-less ship in the event of a pirate attack, they would likely not risk their cargo being commandeered in the first place through risky waters without humans onboard to oversee the voyage. 

Tech players who are common in the autonomous driving sector have a difficult time competing with larger firms like Kongsberg Maritime (a partner with AUTOSHIP) and Samsung Heavy Industry in the maritime sector. Most of the maritime technological breakthroughs are occurring in improving port infrastructure through automation and digitization. Freight owners and operators are rightly concerned about how quickly ports can get containers off the vessels and onto truck beds instead of navigating sea lanes without human intervention. 

global trade schedule reliability maersk

Schedule Reliability Shows Gradual Improvement Amid Red Sea Crisis

Amidst the challenges posed by the Red Sea crisis, there are encouraging signs of progress in global schedule reliability, as highlighted by Sea-Intelligence’s latest findings. The March 2024 statistics reveal a notable uptick of 1.6 percentage points month-over-month (MoM), reaching 54.6 percent.

Issue 152 of the Global Liner Performance (GLP) report by the maritime data company presents comprehensive data on schedule reliability, encompassing 34 trade routes and over 60 carriers. Despite a year-over-year (YoY) decline of -7.9 percentage points, the average delay for late vessel arrivals saw improvement, decreasing by -0.52 days MoM to 5.03 days, compared to pre-crisis levels from November 2023.

Read also: Red Sea Global Trade Disruptions: How to Overcome the Chaos

Among the top 13 carriers, Wan Hai emerged as the most reliable in March 2024, boasting a schedule reliability of 59.7 percent. Hapag-Lloyd and ZIM closely followed, with schedule dependability rates of 56.1 percent each. Notably, 11 out of the top 13 carriers witnessed MoM improvements in schedule reliability, with Wan Hai leading the pack with an impressive increase of 11.1 percentage points.

However, challenges persist, as reflected in the year-over-year comparisons. None of the 13 carriers showed gains in schedule reliability compared to the previous year, with PIL experiencing the most significant decrease of -18.1 percentage points. Despite this, there is a sense of cautious optimism as the industry moves forward.

© Sea-Intelligence

In February, Sea-Intelligence reported a similar trend, with global schedule reliability witnessing a 1.7 percentage point MoM increase to 53.3 percent. These incremental improvements underscore the resilience of the industry amidst ongoing disruptions, offering hope for continued progress in the face of adversity.