Following two consecutive increases in the second and third quarters of 2010, container service reliability disappointingly fell back in the fourth quarter, according to Drewry Maritime Research’s latest Schedule Reliability Insight report.
The proportion of the 3,027 vessel calls arriving on time at selected ports around the world during October-December decreased to 55%, down from 60% in the third quarter. The 4Q10 reliability performance was slightly better than the 53% on-time score recorded in the same period of 2009.
The transpacific trade easily outperformed the other major East-West trades with an on-time percentage of 64%, an exact replica of the trade’s results from 3Q10. In comparison, Asia/Europe/Med services slipped back by 16 points to 50% reliability, while transatlantic services continued their fall from the heady heights of 2Q10 by registering an on-time score of 55%, comparing unfavourably with the previous quarter’s 66%.
Drewry’s report found that only eight of the top 20 container lines, as ranked by vessel teu capacity, were able to improve on the 55% on-time industry average and the same three carriers from the previous quarter occupied the top positions in the latest report albeit in slightly different order: Maersk Line retained the number one slot with an on-time score of 70.2%; APL grabbed second place with 67.7%, while Hyundai Merchant Marine was just edged out into the bronze position with 67.6%.
“It is always difficult explaining fluctuations in service reliability, but considering the near universal declines it is fair to say that most of the big carriers were caught out by the unusually bad weather and port disruptions in the fourth quarter,” said Simon Heaney, editor of Schedule Reliability Insight.
Only three of the major carriers, MOL, “K” Line and CSAV, managed to improve their reliability percentages in 4Q10, with CSAV achieving the biggest rise of 9.9 points from a low base of 35.6% in 3Q10.
Heaney stated “Hopefully, these worse than expected results were just a blip caused by events outside of carriers’ control. From talking to carriers, we know that many view reliability as a key differentiator, so we would expect that to translate into higher on-time percentages in the near future. We certainly urge shippers to make schedule integrity a key component in the next round of global tenders.”
Drewry anticipates that the 1Q11 reliability performance will suffer as a consequence of events in Egypt as liner operations face extensive delays even if the Suez Canal remains open.
“This goes to show that the freight world is a hostage to external events. The speed of developments in Egypt will have caught all the lines out, but hopefully they will be able to come up with contingency plans quickly,” said Heaney.
Drewry has been monitoring container service reliability since the end of 2005. Historically, industry averages have ranged between 50-60% with a high of 68% (2Q09) and low of 46% (1Q07).