More ships arrived at their destination ports behind schedule in the fourth quarter, according to the latest Container Shipper Insight report from Drewry Shipping Consultants.
Of nearly 1,600 ships tracked in the three months ending Dec. 31, only 53 percent arrived either on the scheduled day of arrival or a day prior, Drewry said. That was down 7 percentage points from the reliability rate in the first three quarters of 2009 as well as falling below the historic average, which now stands at 55 percent.
The increase in unreliability coincides with an increase in the practice of slow steaming. While ships might have been expected to arrive a bit later because they are moving slower, their scheduling should not be more difficult.
“These results are especially disappointing as we had expected reliability to improve as a consequence of more slow-steaming, which should in theory help matters by creating a buffer in the schedule,” said Simon Heaney, editor of Freight Shipper Insight and Schedule Reliability Insight.
“It seems that carriers are not prepared to put their foot down if they fall behind schedule,” he said.
Each of the major east-west trade-lanes suffered a drop in on-time performance in the fourth quarter. Trans-Atlantic services deteriorated most, sliding from an average on-time performance of 70 percent in the third quarter to 55 percent in the final three months of the year. Over the same period, trans-Pacific services slipped from 64 percent to 54 percent, while services in the Asia/Europe/Med trade dropped from 52 percent to 50 percent.
The average deviation from the scheduled port arrival for all three trades was one full day.
While slow steaming is vaunted as a way to increase fuel efficiency and lower emissions, these results make it harder for shippers to accept.
“The benefits of slow steaming seem to be entirely skewed towards the carrier in terms of fuel cost savings and capacity restriction, while shippers are hit with the double-whammy of having to pay more through higher rates but getting a worse standard of service,” Heaney said.
Contact Thomas L. Gallagher at email@example.com.