Container service reliability declines


Container service reliability across all trades fell marginally in the third quarter of this year, according to Drewry’s quarterly report, Carrier Performance Insight.

The percentage of on-time ship arrivals dropped to 73.5%, but this should be understood in the context of dropping from a record high of 75.7% set in the second quarter of 2012. However, in the fourth quarter, container service reliability is set to decline further.

To back this assertion, Drewry cites the disruptive effects of Hurricane Sandy, plus disruptions from blank sailings and vessel winter programmes. Nonetheless, despite the slight third quarter on-time percentage drop, the average deviation between the advertised day of arrival and the actual day of arrival for all vessel calls was unchanged, quarter on quarter, at a record low of 0.6 days.

’Drewry has monitored reliability since the end of 2005 and historically the standards that shippers are used to are something more in the range of a 50-60% on-time rate. This latest result does represent a slight quarter-on-quarter slip, but by historical standards it is still at the higher end’ explained Drewry consultant and research manager Simon Heaney.

’This slight quarter-on-quarter slip then, historically, is by historical standards high. In fact, it is the second best performance ever recorded after the second quarter of 2012’ he enthused.
In terms of individual line performance, Maersk Line comfortably held on to the ’most reliable major carrier’ status, with an all-trades on-time score of 90.5% in the third quarter, although down from 91.4% in the previous quarter.

Safmarine, by virtue of sharing space on many of its bigger sibling Maersk Line’s services, came in second with an on-time percentage of 90.3%. Hanjin Shipping dropped a place, although did finish third with an on-time percentage of 88.1%, down by 1.5 percentage points compared with its second quarter result.

’The leading trio of lines were some way ahead of the chasing pack and the latest results revealed a worrying variance of performance between lines with a staggering 40 percentage point difference between the most and least reliable carriers’ according to Drewry.

Heaney said: ’While the industry average is finally getting up to mildly respectable numbers, shippers should not lose sight of the fact those standards can vary dramatically between carriers when making their procurement decisions’.

In highlighting how the carrier industry’s reliability issues are not going to go away anytime soon, the report also makes an interesting point. Problems seem to start before the box is loaded onto the ship. In fact, an incredible ’three out of ten containers are not loaded on the intended ship’ according to Drewry. 

Nonetheless, ’broadly speaking, we are seeing improvements in reliability, but there is still plenty of room for improvement’ according to Heaney.

’Maersk Line is aiming at 95% reliability and they’re getting close. That shows what’s possible. A minimum of 90% should be a realistic aspiration for any major carrier’ Heaney asserted.

That elusive 5%, however, will always remain the domain of externals such as the weather.