Survey: Box Carriers Fall Short on Reliability

Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Despite claims that most containerships operate on fixed-day weekly schedules, over 40% of vessels operated in liner services arrive one or more days late, according to a ground-breaking global survey from Drewry Container Shipper Insight.

Drewry Shipping Consultants carried out what it believes is the liner shipping industry’s largest schedule reliability survey, based on the tracking of 3,300 vessel arrivals on 23 different east/west and north/south trade routes. The continuous survey is an attempt to help shippers plan their supply chains with realistic expectations of delivery times and assist them in the selection of liner carriers.

The survey found relatively low average schedule reliability levels overall across the industry, but with stark variations between the schedules of different liner carriers. The current percentage of liner vessel calls arriving on time is 57%, with 22% of all vessels arriving the day after the scheduled day, 7% making it two days late and 12% of vessels calling at the port of arrival three or more days late. Looking at individual carriers, their on-time arrival reliability percentages ranged between 0% for the least reliable shipping lines and 91% for the best performing carriers, over the December 2005-April 2006 period of the survey.

Among the major east/west carriers, the lines with the highest schedule reliability results are Safmarine, Hatsu Marine (part of Evergreen) and Maersk Line, according to the survey. The major east/west carriers with the lowest on-time schedule percentages are Mediterranean Shipping Co and China Shipping Container Lines.

“Of the 63 international liner carriers whose vessel schedule reliability we monitor, only 16 have on-time vessel arrivals of 60% or more,” said Philip Damas, lead researcher on the Drewry Container Shipper Insight. “This indicates that a large section of the industry still does not operate with the sort of predictable, reliable schedules which most shippers need,” he added.

“As shippers are focusing more and more on supply chain velocity and close adherence to defined lead-times, Drewry's tool comes at the right moment to have a clearer view of this important feature in liner service,” said Jean-Louis Cambon, Head of the Ocean Management Committee of Michelin, commenting on the schedule reliability survey.

The low schedule reliability of some carriers can be partly explained by trade-specific conditions, such as port congestion in many African ports. However, the survey found that, within the same trade route, schedule reliability scores also vary considerably, depending on the individual service and individual carrier.

In the transpacific trade, regarded as a market where shippers are very demanding in terms of fast and reliable transit times, we found that seven West Coast of North America weekly services and three East Coast of North America weekly services had on-time arrivals of less than 30%," Damas said.

Drewry contends that most liner carriers have not included in their weekly schedules sufficient buffer time for contingencies such as bad weather and port delays, and that some lines regard buffer time as too expensive. This was compounded in early 2006 by the switch of the vessels of P&O Nedlloyd from the Grand Alliance to Maersk, which disrupted the services of both.

To protect the integrity of their supply chains, Drewry is urging shippers, before they use additional carriers or import from new sourcing areas, to consider the schedule reliability levels of different carriers and the varying levels of delays of the trade route concerned. Quantified trade route and carrier-specific schedule reliability information was not publicly available until now.

According to Drewry’s survey, the following routes experience some of the highest vessel schedule reliability: transpacific, Asia/Indian Subcontinent/Middle East, North America mainland/Hawaii/Guam and, somewhat unexpectedly the South American East and West Coasts trades to and from both Europe and North America. The routes with the lowest percentage of on-time vessel arrivals (less than 40%) include: Europe/Africa, North America/Africa and Europe/Caribbean/Central America. Transit time delays of up to 4 days are typical on some trade routes.

(Source: Drewry Shipping Consultants Ltd., www.drewry.co.uk)

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