Container vessel schedule reliability at all-time lows on a global level



Vessel schedule reliability continues to struggle, falling to 38.8% in May, with the lines blaming congestion for the average 5.86 day delay of late vessels

The latest schedule reliability statistics continue to reflect an ocean freight infrastructure that has struggled under the weight of increased demand and tight capacity for almost a year.

Not only are ships struggling to arrive on time, but they are getting later, when they do berth. The average delay for late vessels in May was 5.86 days, which is down from the February peak of 6.96 days, but still higher than most of 2020.

Global schedule reliability fell to 38.8% in May, down from 39.1% in April and from 74.8% in May 2020. Maersk was the most punctual carrier for the month with 46.2% schedule reliability, while Evergreen took the lowest schedule reliability at 25.1%. However this depends on how the shipping lines measure their transits against anticipated planned arrival dates which are not always consistent on the various services and alliances.

“If we look at the situation around the market, then the theme remains congestion,” Hapag-Lloyd CEO Rolf Jansen said. “Unfortunately, we still see significant congestion in many places around the world.”

Jansen said the peak season ahead of the holidays would need to be fairly mild in order for the industry to catch up, but that’s not what they expect to happen.

Our expectation is that smart shippers will book their orders to ship ahead of the traditional peak season start and, as we’ve highlighted previously, this peak season is very likely to last longer than normal.

Overall schedule reliability has been largely consistent in recent months, albeit at a much lower level than pre-pandemic, with year over year (Y/Y) global schedule reliability down a “massive” 36.0 percentage points.

The average delay for late vessel arrivals on the other hand had been improving since March 2021. In May 2021 however, the average delay increased slightly by 0.05 days to 5.86 days. The level of delays in 2021 have been the highest across each month when compared to the previous years. The other factor to consider, however,  is how long it takes at origin to actually ensure that a container is released, returned to port, and then successfully loaded on a vessel on which it is booked. This is not included in the overall transit figure.

The number of vessel arrivals subject to extreme delays (>7 days) on the Asia-North Europe trade lane was 461 in January to May 2021, of which 134 were more than 14 days late, and 30 were more than 21 days late.

This compares to 792 vessel arrivals being more than seven days late in the nine year period from January 2012 to December 2020!

In the same period, 35 vessel arrivals were more than 14 days late, and just two vessel arrivals were more than 21 days late.

Metro negotiate rate and volume agreements with a wide range of carriers across all three alliances, which means we can access the widest pool of equipment and offer shippers the biggest range of schedule reliability, service offerings and rates.

Our fixed validity contracts provide supply chain security and peace of mind, but with space and equipment in such short supply, we recommend a minimum of four weeks visibility and booking window, to secure space on the vessel and get the right equipment positioned.

We will always provide the true position on the market situation and intel, along with alternative modes and options available for critical cargo, with a deadline that may not be met due to the situation.