Blank sailings to rise in Q4 2023, stretching into 2024

Published on
September 28, 2023
shipping containers in Russia

Due to low demand and excess capacity in the global shipping industry, blank sailings have risen across the Pacific, Atlantic, Asia-North Europe, and Mediterranean routes.

Blank sailings, otherwise known as void sailings, are shipments canceled by the carrier, usually referring to instances when ocean carriers skip a drop-off in the middle of a fixed schedule. According to shipping logistics firm Container xChange, blank sailings will rise Q4 2023 on most major routes, but especially from Asia to Europe. 

Blank sailings have increased since 2021 due to market disruptions and shifting demand patterns. Recently, there has been an expansion of shipping capacity thanks to the construction of new mega-vessels, outstripping existing demand. Shipping companies will use blank sailings as a means of stabilizing spot rates and maintaining profitability, but the disruptions they cause can result in delivery delays. 

The percentage of routes that include blank sailings is expected to reach up to 16 percent in Q4 2023, primarily impacting routes through China as the company enters its Golden Week holiday season. 

Container xChange recommends shippers adapt to the situation by ordering goods further in advance or by maintaining higher inventory levels.

One route not struggling with low demand is that between Russia and China, though trade has mostly been flowing in one direction as Russia has become more dependent on Chinese goods after facing global sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine. 

“There is significant cargo movement from China into Russia but very scarce movement back to China from Russia. Containers are piling up in Russia, which means that the secondhand container prices are very low in Russia. You see a 40-high cube container being on sale in Moscow for less than USD 1,000 [EUR 946], while in other parts of the world, it is almost double or even more," Container xChange CEO and Co-founder Christian Roeloffs said in a release. "This is significant and has a tremendously detrimental impact on container logistics business because of the high imbalance of demand and supply of containers.” 

In the first seven months of 2023, trade between China and Russia increased 36.5 percent to USD 134.1 billion (EUR 126 billion), according to Chinese customs data. Russia predicts its trade volume with China in 2023 will surpass USD 200 billion (EUR 189 billion) in 2023, up from USD 185 billion (EUR 175 billion) in 2022.

Photo courtesy of Alexander Khitrov/Shutterstock 

Want seafood news sent to your inbox?

You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Diversified Communications | 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 | +1 207-842-5500