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The traditional April network adjustments by the three east-west alliances are likely to take a back seat this year as carriers navigate their way through the fall-out from the week-long Suez Canal blockage.
Even before the enforced week-long delay of the waterway’s north and southbound convoys, THE Alliance was the only vessel sharing group that was planning significant network changes, according to Alphaliner.
“Most changes are delayed until May and even until the end of Q2 for some transatlantic loops,” said the consultant, adding that the reorganisation of THEA’s North Europe-US services had been postponed before the Suez Canal disruption, “due to the operational challenges that the industry is currently facing.
“The 6.5 days Suez blockage of the Ever Given will only add to the operational challenges to have the ships in place for their next assignments,” said Alphaliner.
Meanwhile, 2M alliance partners Maersk and MSC have not announced any major network changes for this year.
“As ships are sailing full in headhaul directions, the 2M VSA partners prefer just to keep them running,” said Alphaliner.
And although the Ocean Alliance members have announced a new ‘Day 5 Product’, it is limited to a few tweaks involving port rotations on its existing loops and thus in theory could be implemented relatively quickly.
Nevertheless, the uncertainty surrounding the working prospects at ports and forward schedules for vessels now transiting the re-opened Suez Canal and steaming towards North Europe is causing carriers to change their proforma schedules daily.
According to today’s data update from VesselsValue, 55% of the 307 ships that were stuck in the Suez Canal prior to the re-floating of the Ever Given on Monday have since continued their voyages.
And roughly half of these vessels have continued northwards towards the Mediterranean.
“As congestion at the canal continues to clear, these vessels will be adding to already high numbers en route to these regions from elsewhere globally, which is likely to end up in increased port delays,” said Charlotte Cook, head trade analyst at VesselsValue.
Indeed, the embattled North European container hubs ports are preparing for a period of severe port and landside congestion as the arrival of the freed vessels from the Suez Canal clashes with ships that had been redirected around the Cape of Good Hope reaching their discharge ports at the same time.
A carrier source told The Loadstar this morning that the final North Europe rotation of the ships “would be fluid.
“We are making one plan and then tearing that up a few hours later,” he said, “obviously the stowage will be a big factor, but I can see more hub and spoke feedering needed to get the ships back out to Asia as quickly as possible,” he added.
Ports will likely face weeks of disruption to their landside operations and shippers will face further delays to imports and a temporary halt to exports.
“We are monitoring the impact on vessel schedules of the temporary blockage of the Suez Canal and liaising closely with our shipping line customers to manage the impact on both inbound and outbound traffic,” said the UK port of Felixstowe.
And the delays and the uncertainty surrounding the onward schedules of the ships is already prompting carriers to advise exporters in Asia of a number of “technical” cancelled sailings from mid-April through to the middle of May.
Maersk said yesterday it estimated the impact of the Suez Canal blockage as a loss of up to 30% of its capacity “over multiple weeks”.