Beginning on February 12th and lasting for two weeks, the Lunar New Year is an annual event that brings China a break from work and a celebration that typically leads to the largest human migration on the planet as people travel to visit friends and family. As the holiday approaches, many factories and facilities are shutting down to give their employees time off to celebrate with friends and family. This shutdown normally leads to blanked sailings as vessels don’t call the shutdown areas because few are manning the station.
This year, liner service isn’t taking the same action with blanked sailings as they did in years past. Normally, twenty percent of sailings are blanked but in 2021, amid the record imports headed to the U.S. from Asia, but this year the figure is closer to two percent. This issue is significant because planning for the blanked sailings often happens early in the year for the following holiday because the disruption is so consequential to trade.
With the unprecedented disruption happening as record imports crash into the U.S. West Coast, shippers in Asia don’t have the buffer of normal years to lean on and blank sailings. So far, plans show they’re going to try and play catch up as celebrations peak around the world. Though we won’t know the total number of blanked sailings until closer to the start of the holiday, a lack of blanked sailings will take away the ability to play catch up at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. With vessels stopped at anchor waiting for space, the current reliability score for ocean freight carriers is below thirty percent due to vessel bunching and congestion.
Structured blanked sailings are used by carriers to repair journey timing issues caused by disruptions, a situation we’ve been watching since last year. In October and November, ocean carriers rejected over 177,000 TEUs to make space for empty containers set to return to Asia and load with exports. While this saves time, it leaves freight sitting at the port or with shippers who can’t get export bookings. Agriculture products are particularly vulnerable during this time as they have a limited lifespan.
These aren’t minor problems that will iron out by going back to business as usual. Instead, the navigation of these market conditions is better handled by skilled ocean cargo experts with strong carrier relationships and a world wide global network with negotiating power like CFI. Your ocean cargo is more vulnerable to delays and fees and we’re working hard to keep that sting away from our clients and their cargo. If you have concerns about blanked sailings and the disruption coming from Lunar New Year, reach out to your CFI representative today for custom tailored solutions to your most complex cargo problems.