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Container line schedule reliability plunges to 35.8% in 2021

Photo: Marcus Hand Containership at sunset in Singapore
Container line schedule reliability slumped to 35.8% in 2021 with the performance of the three main alliances all below this level, according to analysts Sea-Intelligence.

Supply chain disruption spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as other events such as the temporary closure of the Suez Canal last March, has seen the reliability of container shipping drop to historic lows.

The figure of 35.8% schedule reliability compares to 63.9% in 2020, and 78% in 2019 according to Sea-Intel figures. None of the top 14 largest container lines recorded a schedule reliability above 50% in 2021 with the two best performers Maersk with 46.4% reliability and subsidiary Hamburg Sud with 40.9%. Bottom of the pile for the top 14 carriers was Evergreen with a schedule reliability of 19.6% last year.

Reliability was particularly poor on the mainline trades as was evidenced by the performances of the three main alliances, focused on these major tradelanes. 2M managed the best performance at 33.6%, followed by THE Alliance at 15.5%, and Ocean Alliance with just 8.2% service reliability in 2021.

“All six major East/West trade lanes recorded double-digit year-on-year declines in schedule reliability, with the Asia‑Europe and Asia-North America West Coast trade lanes recording year-on-year declines of over 40 percentage points,” commented Alan Murphy, CEO of Sea-Intel.

Supply chain dislocation and the massive slump in container line schedule reliability with it has translated into previously unthinkable levels of profitability for container lines, with the sector's overall EBIT for 2021 estimated at $190bn by analysts Drewry., GLP Report, FY 2021 AnalysisSea-Intel_2021_schedule_reliability.JPG

By far the best service reliability was recorded by smaller lines serving niche, regional trades rather than those serving congested major ports.

Streamlines was the most reliable line in 2021 with schedule reliability of 98.8%, followed by Geest Line with 98.6%, and ICL 98.0%. In contrast to the major lines all top 14 niche lines recorded a schedule reliability of over 50% in 2021.