Liner schedule reliability still well below last year

Despite recent improvements, liner schedule reliability levels are still languishing at lower levels than a year ago, causing disruption for shippers and terminals, according to the latest research.

SeaIntel said global schedule reliability increased for the second consecutive month in April, up 1.5 points to 73.6%, but was still 8.5 percentage points down compared to a year earlier.

A similar trend is apparent in global container delivery figures, as compiled by INTTRA. Delivery levels increased from 54.8% in March to 56.2% in April but were still 9.6 percentage points lower than in April 2013.

“Even though global schedule reliability is showing a long-needed improvement, shippers should be aware of the performance in their trade lanes, as we see large variations in regional performance, as well as highly variable performance across carriers in different trade lanes,” said Alan Murphy, COO and Partner at SeaIntel.

Indeed, reliability across the major trade lanes made double-digit gains in April compared to March, but SeaIntel said that only Asia-Mediterranean was performing better than in 2013. “Overall, 17 trade lanes are down by two-digit percentage points compared to last year,” said SeaIntel.

One industry observer suggested that the March to April improvement was probably down to an overhang from blank sailings and schedule shuffles around Chinese New Year that had a negative impact on March reliability performance. He doubted that we would see a significant month-on-month gain in May.

Maersk Line and Hamburg Süd were the two best performing carriers globally ahead of CSAV and UASC in April, when all four lines posted reliability figures of more than 80%.

SeaIntel said it was unlikely that lines would reach 2013 performance levels before the end of the year, as most planned service reshuffles on the major east-west trade lanes in the coming months.

“So far we have seen a significant number of service changes this year, and these changes cannot avoid impacting the carriers’ schedule reliability, as vessels need to be phased in and out of services,” added SeaIntel.

Shipping research and advisory group Drewry warned last month that poor liner reliability was having a knock-on impact at ports that were unsure when ships would arrive.