Carriers blank Golden Week sailings

The cancellation of multiple October sailings from Asia to Europe is an attempt by the carriers to push capacity down and raise rates, but if they fail, they may not have another opportunity to significantly raise prices before Chinese New Year, next February. 

Container shipping lines across the three alliances have announced additional blank sailings ex Asia to North Europe and the Mediterranean, around the Chinese Golden Week holiday in the first week of October, and through to the end of the month.

According to data from Sea-Intelligence, the capacity operated on the Asia-Europe trade in September is 10% higher than last year and on the Asia-Med service it is 27% more and while the carriers are planning significant capacity cuts after Golden Week, we are wary of unannounced blank sailings in the coming weeks.

Overall 14% of scheduled sailings have been cancelled from mid-September to mid-October and this we expect are announcements to counter balance the lower demand during China’s Golden Week holiday.

The current blanking represents Ocean Alliance (5%) and THE Alliance (7%) with MSC blanking SWAN service weeks 38-43 removing 45k TEU of capacity.

MSC has radically cut capacity on the Mediterranean lane between weeks 40 and 43, but it is not clear whether HMM will blank any sailings of its Asia, India to Mediterranean standalone loop that launched in August.

The aggressive blanking announced by all three alliances means it may be challenging to find space for exports from China to Europe next month, which is why we recommend that you share shipping forecasts as early as possible, so we can reserve the space you need.

There will also be the knock-on effect of limited export sailings from North Europe during November and December, which underlines again the importance of shipping forecasts.

Carriers will, of course, be looking to raise rates on backhaul trades, as prices for oil have surged to $90 a barrel, with December Brent Crude now priced at around $95, driven by OPEC’s supply cuts, which have been extended to the end of the year.

The price of Rotterdam-sourced industry-standard low-sulphur fuel (VLSFO) jumped on Friday by another $8 per ton to $643 and has now increased by 22% since the end of June.

We are watching closely…

Whatever the market challenges are, our sea freight team keep our customers’ cargo moving, finding capacity and alternative services in the event of unforeseen blankings. 

Providing us with regular forecasting, helps us to understand critical dates and intended volumes, so that we can secure the right amount of capacity to keep your supply chains running. 

If you have any questions or concerns about your Asia supply chain or the developments outlined here, please EMAIL our Chief Commercial Officer, Andy Smith.