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Trans-Pacific Carriers Continue to Struggle with Schedule Reliability


After the poor on-time performance of vessels in 2021, the Sea-Intelligence Maritime Analysis is focusing on monthly investigations in 2022 to improve the performance and carefully track any trends that could affect schedule reliability.

Unfortunately, so far, there appears to be little improvement as port congestion and vessel bunching continue to disrupt schedules and leading to delays. Here’s what we’ve seen from the start of 2022 and what to expect going forward.

The Lowest Global Reliability Ever

The results were somewhat mixed from January, but the key takeaway here is that in January this year, global reliability hit its lowest level ever, with global linear schedule reliability falling 0.9 percent. While Asia to the North American West Coast improved slightly at the start of the year, up 0.5 percent, Asia to the North American East Coast fell 1.8 percent. The Middle East was the only origin region to see improvements in on-time performance.

Equally troubling was the fact that the average delay times continued to rise on both the West and East Coast. As of February, Sea-Intelligence data showed the average West Coast delay to be 17.16 days, and the average East Coast delay is around 8.69 days. Further, the average length of delays in January 2022 was up five days from November 2021.

A few factors led to the discouraging start of 2022, including lingering demand from a holiday surge and disruptions caused by the impacts of the omicron-variant. These issues only further exacerbated ongoing problems with blank sailings and terminal congestion.

What to Expect Going Forward

The reality is that not much improvement is expected in the months ahead. Congestion at key loading ports in Asia and receiving ports in North America, caused by 2021’s double-digit increases in demand for imports, is expected to continue. While demand seems to be stabilizing and returning to a more “normal” state, port congestion and vessel bunching are expected to continue at least through Q1 of 2023.

However, it is worth noting that given how poor on-time performance was in 2021, it’s likely that we’ll see some year-over-year improvements or, at the very least, few regressions. Sea-Intel’s report observes, “Now that we are comparing with 2021, a year with awful schedule reliability in all months, unless something drastic happens in 2022, the [year-over-year] difference in schedule reliability will be minimal.”

Nevertheless, poor scheduling continues to disrupt trade and make it hard for carriers and importers to meet shipping goals. Josh Brazil, Director of Supply Chain Insights at project44 warns that “[a]s the recurring cycle of vessel delays continues, and port congestion negatively impacts transit times, the cost for moving goods around the world is still rising.”


Planning for Schedule Delays

While on-time performance shouldn’t get worse, it’s not likely to improve much in the next few months, which can lead to added costs, longer delays, and general headaches for logistics crews, importers, and customers.

Thankfully, at Clear Freight we understand the challenges with schedule reliability and can help customers navigate this new normal. Contact our team to learn more or get a personalized logistics solution for your business.

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