The expected rebound in some economies is being stymied by missed calls at some ports, according to the latest report from consultants MDS Transmodal, commissioned by the Global Shippers’ Forum (GSF).

According to the report, up to 40% of expected container capacity in the fourth quarter of 2021 failed to arrive at some ports, including Piraeus, Greece and Colombo in Sri Lanka, compared with pre-pandemic failure rates of 15-20%. Both Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates and the UK’s Felixstowe Port had failure rates of around one third.

In Asia and Australasia, Port Klang, Melbourne and Tauranga also lost some 40% of capacity as lines either cancelled services or skipped ports due to vessels being full.

MDS Transmodal’s Antonella Teodoro explained: “When we analyse the capacity offered by the shipping lines, two major elements are to be considered: 1.) the intention to call (or not) at a given port and 2.) the calls actually made.”

The consultancy considered data from Q1 of 2019 onwards. “Carriers have been reducing the scheduled capacity offered to some ports but also reduced the level of capacity actually provided. These reductions have translated in deterioration of connectivity with some countries losing direct connections,” added Ms Teodoro.

A number of effects can be seen as a result of the missed calls and subsequent lost capacity, according to GSF director James Hookham.

“They create local upward pressure on shipping rates, as shipping line agents ‘auction-off’ available slots on the vessels that do call. Shippers also face unexpected surcharges for the handling and storage of delayed containers. More pernicious is the wider effect on national economies, especially those of developing nations that lose opportunity to deliver their exports and hinder the recovery of their economy from the effects of lockdowns and Covid restrictions,” he added.

Blanked sailings and skipped ports were a feature of the Asia to Europe trades, with regional economies suffering from the failure to offer a service, according to the GSF.

Mr Hookham concluded: “Skipped ports and blanked sailings have evidently become central to the way shipping lines are managing the capacity of their heavily utilised fleets. As the pressures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic ease, GSF will be monitoring the restoration of service predictability for shippers at these and other key global ports to ensure the benefits of service reliability and frequency promised by consortia and alliance operations are reinstated.”

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