Felixstowe, Zeebrugge, and Antwerp hit hard by blank sailings


Capacity reductions by container lines in response to falling demand due to the Covid-19 pandemic are having an uneven impact across different cargo gateways and may affect the longer-term competitive positioning of some ports over others, analyst Sea-Intelligence has highlighted.

Taking a deeper look into the impact the pandemic is going to have on container ports and terminals, Sea-Intelligence’s latest Sunday Spotlight briefing noted that the amount of blank sailings on the main east-west trades “are now some 250-350% higher than what is normally seen during Chinese New Year, and hence there will be a significant impact on ports as well”.

It noted that the Asia-Europe trade lane “is also where the world’s more than 100 ultra-large container vessels operate. As such, the calls to individual ports from these behemoths is an important part of both their operations and finances”.

These vessels regularly call 41 different ports in Europe, and using Sea-Intelligence’s Blank Sailing Tracker, it has been possible to measure how severely each individual port will be impacted in terms of blank sailings directly from Asia.

Looking at the second quarter of 2020, “the hardest-hit ports in the Mediterranean are La Spezia, Tangiers, and Damietta which see more than 40% of their direct calls removed due to blank sailings from Asia, Sea-Intelligence said. In North Europe, the hardest hit ports are Felixstowe, Zeebrugge, and Antwerp with roughly a 30% drop in vessel calls from Asia.”

It said there are only seven European container ports that are presently not scheduled to experience blank sailings: Gioia Tauro, Tekirday, Haifa, Gothenburg, Aarhus, Gdansk, and Wilhelmshaven. “Please keep in mind that these are the ports that are not impacted by blank sailings, but can still be impacted by port omissions on regular sailings,” Sea-Intelligence told Lloyd’s Loading List.

“This clearly shows that the capacity reductions performed by the carriers will not have an even impact across different cargo gateways, and as a consequence this might serve to strengthen the longer-term competitive positioning of some ports over others in Europe.”