Congestion is currently enormous. The pro-forma network schedules of the three Asia-North Europe alliances are currently unsustainable, and carriers must add three ships per loop to maintain a weekly frequency.

That is the conclusion of Alphaliner in its latest analysis of schedule integrity on the trade route, which covered completion of round trips between May 1 and May 15. 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.

They calculated that the ultra-large vessels deployed on the route currently needed an average of 101 days to complete a full round trip, explaining: „This means that on average they arrive in China 20 days too late for their next round-trip, forcing carriers to cancel some sailings due to the unavailability of a (replacement) vessel.“ Based on twenty-seven 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.

The consultant noted that the ships of THE Alliance shipping companies experienced the most delays „because they strictly adhere to their schedules without skipping ports.“

One carrier, in its response to the Alphaliner survey, blamed a lack of port labor and a shortage of transportation equipment for the longer 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.”