An increasing volume of cargo is being delayed by late deliveries or rolled over as the peak season comes into full force, according to Drewry Maritime Research.
The delays and roll-overs are particularly severe on the Asia-Europe trade, where as much as 36 percent of deliveries were delayed in the second quarter by roll-overs or by the late arrival of vessels at their European destinations.
Delays are also hitting the Asia-North America trade, where 24 percent of deliveries failed to arrive on schedule during the second quarter.
Drewry said carriers are only partly to blame for the delays. The biggest reason is not late vessel arrivals, but the failure of shippers to get their containers to the ports of embarkation.
“Cargo no shows and phantom bookings are still a major headache for ocean carriers, particularly during the peak season,” Drewry said in its weekly Container Insight. It said some ships still sailed light due to last-minute booking cancellations.
“Phantom bookings just add to the problem, being the work of forwarders that foresee a strong market, and try to reserve more than enough space for it in the hope of capturing new customers that may eventually be caught short,” Drewry said.
Because a combination of factors is causing the delays, it is increasingly hard to identify just who is responsible, which makes it hard for carriers to collect penalties. Delays can be caused by a number of different factors, including problems with intermodal transport, regulatory issues, unexpected production difficulties, container equipment shortages, and feeder vessel schedule failures.
“If a connecting barge, train or feeder vessel gets held up somewhere, a lot of allocated deep-sea vessel space can end up not being used at the last minute, and, as ocean carriers know only too well, 100 percent schedule integrity is often destroyed through the mistakes of others,” Drewry said.
This makes the strict enforcement of fees for late cancellations difficult. “It is also still a ‘buyer’s market, so much depends on everyone applying similar rules, which is far from the case. Some carriers continue to rely on other less obvious ways of minimizing the damage of last minute booking cancellations, including the blacklisting of repeated offenders.”