THE Alliance partners Hapag-Lloyd, ONE and Yang Ming have blanked another sailing on the Asia-North Europe trade lane next month. The move removes a total of 200,000 TEU of capacity and 11 sailings on the westbound leg.
The latest blanked voyage is THE Alliance's October 5 service from Busan on their FE4 loop that is operated by the 14,993 TEU Al Mashrab, reported UK's The Loadstar.
Hapag-Lloyd told customers the voyage was cancelled as part of its vessel maintenance scheme. Other carriers have cited the expected weakness of bookings during and after the Chinese Golden Week holiday early in October as the reason for voiding sailings.
THE Alliance has already blanked its FE2 and FE3 loops on October 1 and 5 and the Ocean Alliance has voided loops NEU1, NEU3 and NEU4, equivalent to 52,000 TEU of capacity, from the first week in October.
As of yet the biggest cancellation of capacity next month is by the 2M Alliance, after it removed 93,000 slots. Following the announcement to temporarily suspend their AE2/Swan service, Maersk Line and MSC will also scrap the October 1 sailing of their AE5/Albatross service.
The carriers assert that bookings made for cancelled sailings will be covered on other services, however, one unnamed UK importer was cited as saying that there is very little information on when containers will actually be shipped.
"We just do not have any idea," the importer said. "We have retailers calling us daily for an update but we can't tell them much and with the ongoing IT problems at Felixstowe, coupled with the haulage shortage, the supply chain is a complete mess."
Concern is mounting among north European exporters over the knock-on impact of cancelled backhaul voyages in November. They fear a return to the capacity crunch last experienced during the alliance restructuring in April last year.
Last week the Asia-North Europe component of the Shanghai Containerised Freight Index (SCFI) registered a seven per cent decrease in spot rates to US$821 per TEU. Hence, this capacity reduction programme is regarded as an attempt by shipping lines to prevent a repeat of the rate erosion that occurred in the final quarter of last year.
In comparison to the service reductions implemented in 2017 Alphaliner described these capacity cuts as being "significantly more severe".