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Maersk Line has been replaced at the top of the rankings of the most reliable container line by Japan’s MOL in Drewry’s latest survey of ocean carrier on-time schedule integrity.

But the jury is out on the importance of this accolade in the current market conditions.

According to the consultant’s July edition of its Carrier Performance Insight, covering the three main east-west tradelanes, overall liner reliability slipped four percentage points during the month, to 73.3%, due to lower scores recorded in the Asia to Europe and transpacific trades.

MOL’s on-time performance in July reached 80.1% while the Danish carrier fell back 5% to 79.8%.

Drewry said that it was the first time it had been able to list a carrier other than Maersk at the top of its monthly rankings, although in consultancy rival SeaIntel’s liner reliability report on the second quarter, Maersk dropped to fourth in rankings that also saw MOL at number one.

In the same report, Maersk’s 2M partner MSC came in bottom for schedule reliability, albeit that this disconnect across services for which they share the same ship has more to do with the advertised dates provided by the respective carriers and on which data performance is gauged.

Commenting on the SeaIntel report, Maersk said that the carrier was “pleased to be in the top quartile position – its set target – yet remains committed to improve”.

Nevertheless, despite the commitment, the company confirmed that being the most reliable carrier was no longer an aspiration for Maersk Line – it is now satisfied to be in among the top performers.

Maersk said it believed that after its flirtation with the ill-fated Daily Maersk product, shippers expect a ‘good’ service but are not prepared to pay extra for a ‘premium’ service.

Indeed, if Maersk wanted any further evidence it only has to look at its 2M partner MSC to see that on-time performance is not the ‘be all and end all’ in container liner shipping. MSC has grown exponentially, not just due to aggressive marketing and a competitive rate structure, but because of its close relationships on the ground with its customers.

Meanwhile, MOL’s container line continues to operate in the red, in contrast to its two Japanese compatriot carriers NYK and K Line. Moreover, there is no firm evidence to suggest that it is winning cargo from other carriers based on the punctuality of its ships.

Drewry says it expects to see an improvement in reliability in the Asia-Europe trade due to the expansion of the Suez Canal, which is anticipated to reduce convey transit times from 18 to 11 hours, while waiting times should also reduce significantly from the current up-to-11 hours to a maximum of three hours.

“Suez being turned into a two-lane maritime highway…will not only improve capacity, but will also speed transit times and reduce delays. This can only be good for operational efficiency,” said Simon Heaney, senior manager of supply chain research at Drewry

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