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Carrier schedule reliability falls to 2020 low of 56 percent

Global schedule reliability of container shipping fell to just 56 percent in September, with the on-time performance of Asia shipments to both the US West and East coasts slipping below 50 percent.

The average delay of late vessels globally neared five days last month, according to the data from Sea-Intelligence Maritime Analysis.

September’s global on-time performance was the lowest recorded this year, in which the best carriers could achieve was 77.7 percent in June when huge amounts of capacity were blanked on the major trade lanes.

The trans-Pacific was unsurprisingly leading the dismal reliability table, as a record surge in US imports from Asia clogged the Southern California port complex of Los Angeles-Long Beach and led to delays.

Sea-Intelligence data shows Asia-US West Coast trade reported on-time performance of 46.7 percent in September, down from 62.2 percent in August and a sharp decline from 86.7 percent in June.

Carrier performance on the Asia-US East Coast was not much better, with the 49 percent schedule reliability in September down 11.7 percentage points from August and 38 percentage points since June.

On-time performance on the Asia-North Europe trade declined 10.4 percentage points from August to 69 percent in September, which is down from a 2020 high of 91.6 percent in June. At 68.5 percent, the on-time performance of the Asia-Mediterranean routes was down from 86.5 percent in June. The backhaul Europe-to-Asia trade reported a schedule reliability of 55.8 percent in September, down from 70.8 percent in August.

While carrier service levels decline, rates on the major east-west trades have remained at high levels. According to the Shanghai Containerized Freight Index (SCFI), the Asia-US West Coast spot rate of $3,865 per FEU reached last week was a 184 percent increase over the same week last year, while the Asia-US East Coast rate of $4,625 per FEU was almost double the year-over-year rate.

Shanghai-North Europe spot rates at $1,100 per TEU are up 85 percent year over year, with Shanghai-Mediterranean up 77.6 percent. The weekly rate movements are tracked at the JOC Shipping & Logistics Pricing Hub.

Customer frustration runs high
The high rates and poor service levels are testing the patience of shippers and NVOs, several of whom have expressed their frustration to

“September was the worst month so far,” the supply chain director of a global clothing retailer said. “You can complain, but nothing happens. We also see more port congestion and lack of equipment, but still, the rates are going up.”

“I have been in ocean freight for 15 to 16 years and this is the most volatile I have seen it from a shippers’ perspective,” the logistics head of a European food production group said. “Prices are going up and service is going down.”

An executive at a global forwarder questioned what BCOs and NVOs were receiving service-wise amid the “good financials” produced by carriers.

“No matter whether the rates are sky high or rock bottom, the service levels remain substandard, to say the least,” the source said.

Contact Greg Knowler at and follow him on Twitter: @greg_knowler.

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