The schedule reliability of container ships in all trade lanes improved to 72.3 percent in the first quarter of 2012 from 69.4 percent in the last quarter of 2011, according to the latest quarterly Carrier Performance Insight, published by Drewry Maritime Research.
Drewry said the most reliable carriers in the period were Maersk Line and its sister company Safmarine, followed by Hanjin Shipping.
Maersk Line said it has achieved schedule reliability of 97 percent for its Daily Maersk service from Asia to Europe since its launch in October and has been hitting 99 percent in recent months.
Overall vessel schedule reliability by all carriers has improved in each of the last four quarters, but carriers’ service standards for some commercial processes remain as low 40 percent.
Drewry now monitors container carrier service quality on a monthly or quarterly basus against seven Key Performance Indicators or metrics:
- Vessel schedule reliability;
- Elapsed time between shipping instruction and bill of lading issue;
- On-time shipment of cargo;
- Port-to-port transit time against schedule;
- Cargo availability at destination port;
- Average US inland transit times; and
- Port dwell times.
Drewry said it incorporated new Key Performance Indicators, using data from e-commerce platform CargoSmart, that measure commercial and operational performance at the box-level.
The low success rate of the KPI for “elapsed time between shipping instruction and bill of lading issue,” showing that only about 40 percent of shippers obtain BLs within three days of submitting the original shipping instruction, suggests that there is still a lot of work required to improve certain commercial processes.
The variance between carriers’ success rates for this KPI was large, with a range of 0 percent to 93 percent across the five months between October 2011 and February 2012.
The KPI for “on-time shipment of cargo” measures whether a box leaves the first port of load as scheduled. This first step is crucial, and any delay at this point will inevitably lead to further hold-ups down the chain.
CargoSmart’s data showed a consistent success rate of 66-70 percent in the same five months. That benchmark score indicates that delays are fairly common even before the box has been loaded on board.
“Port-to-port transit time against schedule” tracks whether the sea-transit length was as originally promised. It is not a direct measure of reliability, as it is possible to achieve the confirmed transit time but be late arriving because of delays at the loading port.
Success rates were slightly better than the previous KPI but still indicate that roughly one container in four spends longer at sea than planned.
“Cargo availability at destination port” is the closest in character to Drewry’s own reliability measure, as it looks at the difference between the promised and actual arrival date of the container at the port of discharge.
As this KPI is influenced by the success of the first two benchmarks, it is natural that it has a lower success rate. The preliminary average for the first quarter of 2012 was 57 percent.
Port dwell times and U.S. inland transits are not a measure of carrier performance as they have very little influence over them. The rationale for their inclusion is to provide shippers with extra lead-time transparency.
“Any improvement in reliability should be welcomed, but an average score of around 70 percent is still far too low for a key service industry to be happy with,” said Simon Heaney, research manager at Drewry.