It also notes that inventory levels in Europe and the US are at their lowest on record and that, even when retail demand declines, “we will see cargo volumes continue to remain strong” as inventory levels are rebuilt.
The carrier said it was taking steps to “rationalise” its service coverage and reduce the number of port calls, in an attempt to speed-up schedules and improve reliability.
“Continued strong demand, coupled with network disruptions has hammered our schedule reliability,” said Maersk in an Asia Pacific market update today. “We advise customers to plan their supply chains well ahead, particularly for the upcoming holiday rush.”
Specifically, Maersk said it was planning to reduce port calls in North Europe on its Asia-North Europe loops to improve schedule reliability on the route.
This rationalisation on some services follows accumulated delays on the 2M network, with several departures from Asia now spaced apart by more than seven days.
A carrier contact told The Loadstar it “made sense” to reduce the number of hub ports in North Europe.
“If the 2M plans these rationalised schedules early enough, it can also avoid the need for costly re-stows, and I could see this becoming a short-term contingency plan for all the alliances,” he said.
He added that he thought the UK, Le Havre and Hamburg would be likely to see port call omissions, with overlanded cargo relayed via other services or with feeders.
Indeed, Maersk said that, although the UK ports were “operating smoothly”, landside operations were being impacted by “very severe trucking shortages across the country, leading to high yard density in the ports”. It added that Rotterdam was also experiencing trucking shortages, “although not as severe as in the UK”.
Carriers skipping ports in North Europe has been a common occurrence since demand returned, but is often done at short notice with very little communication to shippers. One UK NVOCC told The Loadstar this morning he hoped the 2M would communicate any adjusted schedules promptly.
“It’s not ideal, but we can deal with this if we have enough notice so that we can let everybody know, but in the past not even the local port offices seemed to get told when a ship was skipping a UK port call,” he said.
Meanwhile, on the transpacific, Maersk said it expected the strong demand to continue for the whole of Q4. However, with berthing delays at North American ports getting longer, it said it expected “the loss of capacity from missed sailings to continue”.
“We have deployed gap loaders and launched the new TP-X and TP20 services on the US west and east coasts to bolster capacity and improve schedule reliability,” said the carrier.
But there was some good news for Asia to Latin America shippers, with the outlook through to China’s Golden Week holiday next week remaining “positive”.
The carrier however recommended customers on the tradelane to “divert cargo to north or east China ports if possible”.