Box lines cut one in six ex-Asia intercontinental sailings


Container lines are cutting around one in six ex-Asia intercontinental sailings on Asia-Europe and transpacific trades, with around 3 million TEU to be taken out on Asia-Europe and transpacific trades combined between week five to the middle of the year, new analysis by Sea-Intelligence indicates – equivalent to 16% of average weekly capacity.

Sea-Intelligence’s latest Sunday Spotlight briefing, with a key focus on the continued downturn brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic, reports that as of 11 April, 384 sailings are now blanked due to the pandemic. During the past week the carriers announced an additional 83 blank sailings on various deep-sea trades, the analyst said.

CEO Alan Murphy noted the number last week was 212 blank sailings due to the pandemic, but at the same time there had previously been 89 blank sailings during the outbreak in China, adding: “As the outbreak has developed, it no longer makes sense to separate the impact seen from the virus in China from the impact seen in the rest of the world. Hence the count of blank sailings now includes both the early blank sailings in China and the newer blank sailings from the global spread.”

On Asia-Europe and transpacific combined, he said the carriers have now removed 3 million TEU of capacity, adding: “To put this into perspective, this equals 2.4 times the normal removal seen during Chinese New Year. As it is well-known how much demand declines each year due to Chinese New Year, it is possible to also estimate the demand impact from the pandemic outbreak.”

He added: “The blank sailings must be seen as the carriers’ reaction to an actual demand decline. Comparing the pandemic blank sailings to the Chinese New Year blank sailings it can be seen that we are currently facing a demand decline of roughly 6.4 million TEU globally.”

He estimated that “if the world returns fully to normal after the second quarter and the carriers do not cancel any further sailings – which appears quite unlikely – this would still lead to a demand decline for full year 2020 of 4%”.

Making a comparison with last year, Murphy told Lloyd’s Loading List that for weeks 5-26, the average weekly deployed capacity on Asia-Europe and Transpac in 2019 was only marginally different from FY 2019 average:

Asia-NEUR: 270,000 TEU/Week; Asia-MED: 140,000 TEU/Week; Asia-NAWC: 280,000 TEU/Week

Asia-NAEC: 155,000 TEU/Week.  

So, comparing weeks 5-26 of 2020 vs 2019, capacity is presently down 16%, he confirmed.