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Port congestion and rising demand forces carriers into schedule adjustments

Increased demand and worsening port congestion in Asia is forcing the east-west alliance carriers to temporarily adjust their liner service networks.

With long waits for berths on the US west coast and at several North European ports, attempts by shipping lines to recover a vessel’s schedule are being thwarted.

The 2M partners advised today they would adjust the sailing programmes of three of their Asia-North Europe loops “to match the actual departure dates from Asia”.

Maersk and MSC advised customers that the advertised sailing dates of their respective AE6/Lion, AE7/Condor and AE10/Silk services would be retrospectively amended to the actual sailing dates of the ships.

“This situation is driven by a combination of rapidly increased demand and measures to fight the pandemic across ports and supply chains in general,” said Maersk.

The carrier said accumulated delays were “causing gaps with the line-up” and had resulted in “several Asia departures being spread apart by more than seven days”.

And according to the 2M partners, the adjustments for the three loops are just the start of their network changes, which will presumably also include the other two loops to North Europe and the AE55/Griffin ‘sweeper’ service.

At the time of going to press, The Loadstar was unable to obtain confirmation from the Ocean Alliance partners of their strategy on network adjustments, but Hapag-Lloyd did confirm this morning that THE Alliance was “currently not making any changes”.

Meanwhile, worsening congestion at Hamburg and Rotterdam are forcing carriers to skip port calls in North Europe.

Last week, Maersk and MSC extended the omission of Hamburg on their AE7/Condor Loop 4 for a further four weeks, discharging cargo instead at Bremerhaven and advising shippers that this constituted “end of carriage” by the terms of their bills of lading.

Maersk said its original decision to cancel the Hamburg call at the Eurogate facility, “a result of high yard density and exceptional waiting time for our vessels”, would continue for a further four weeks as the situation had not improved.

And today, THE Alliance said it was temporarily dropping the eastbound call at Rotterdam of its Asia-North Europe FE4 loop for seven weeks, with immediate effect, “due to the ongoing congestion situation” .

Liner schedule reliability is at record lows, but carriers argue that, given the global issues of the pandemic and the demand surge across many routes, the reliability tables are an “unfair” reflection on their endeavours to improve the integrity of liner services.

“Our ship planners are pulling their hair out; every 24 hours they get a stack of delay advices from the port offices, which all have a knock-on effect down the line. It means that there is a daily adjustment needed to the network,” a carrier contact told The Loadstar.

Source: theloadstar - Mike Wackett

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