The MOL Triumph on the Elbe

The proforma network schedules of the three Asia-North Europe alliances are currently unsustainable, and carriers need to add three ships per loop to maintain a weekly frequency.

That is the conclusion reached by Alphaliner in its latest analysis of schedule integrity on the tradelane, looking at the completion of round-trip voyages between 1 May and 15 May.

According to the consultant, during the period, ships on Asia-North Europe loops arrived back in China, on average, 20 days late, compared with their proforma schedules – up from the average 17 days late in February.

“Most of the time is lost in North Europe, awaiting an available berth at the major ports,” said Alphaliner.

“Very high yard densities at North European container terminals and inland transport bottlenecks are aggravating port congestion problems,” it added.

It calculated that the ultra-large vessels deployed on the route currently needed an average of 101 days to complete a full round voyage, explaining: “This means they arrive on average 20 days late in China for their next round-trip, forcing carriers to blank some sailings as there is no (replacement) ship available.,”

Based on 27 round-trip arrivals in China during the period, Alphaliner recorded the Ocean Alliance as being closest to schedule reliability, with an average delay of 17 days for its loops, followed by the 2M’s average delay of 19 days. THE Alliance carriers recorded the worst performance, with an average delay for its loops of 32 days.

To illustrate the extent of the network delays Alphaliner tracked ONE’s 20,170 teu MOL Triumph (pictured above), which sailed from Qingdao, China on 16 February on THEA’s FE4 loop. According to its schedule, the ship was expected to arrive at Algeciras on 25 March and to depart from North Europe on the backhaul leg on 7 April.

However, it did not arrive at Algeciras until 2 April, called at Rotterdam between 12-15 April, suffered considerable delay at Antwerp between 26 April and 3 May, arriving at Hamburg on 14 May. MOL Triumph is finally expected to depart for Asia this week – 41 days behind schedule.

“The time needed to discharge and load at the three biggest European container ports was 36 days between arrival at Rotterdam and departure from Hamburg,” said Alphaliner.

The consultant noted that THE Alliance carriers’ vessels saw the longest delays “as they rigorously stick to their schedules without skipping any ports”.

One carrier’s response to the Alphaliner survey blamed a lack of port labour and a shortage of haulage for increased dwell times of import containers.

“As the big terminals get choked up with boxes, ships have to wait at anchorage,” said Alphaliner warning that a rush of Chinese exports after the ending of Covid lockdowns “could add unwanted extra pressure on the North European port and terminal systems again this summer”.

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