Something that we have heard more recently is the term “blank sailings”, so you may be asking yourself what it actually means. Blank sailings are not a new thing and occur frequently, but the number of blank sailings that have been brought on by the effects of the pandemic are concerning, though close to a year since the pandemic was declared, there were fewer blank sailing noted during Chinese New Year of 2021.
A blank sailing, also known as blanked or void sailing, is when a vessel that has been schedule to sail has been cancelled by the vessel carrier or operator. It can be due to a number of possibilities from the likes of a sailing skipping a specific port or even when the entire route string (which means a set of ports which is visited or served weekly by a specific carrier) is cancelled.
Usually, a carrier will announce expected blank sailings, and during this Chinese New Year season, carriers have expected less blank sailings which is a welcome surprise compared to that of last year. According to Blank Sailings Tracker, “across the transpacific, Asia-Europe and transatlantic trades, just 1.7% and 0.6% of head haul sailings have so far been cancelled in February and March respectively, compared with the 19.9% and 9.4% sailings cancelled in the same months last year.”
Whilst there are frustrations amongst cargo owners considering the tight ocean capacity, blank sailings does have a huge impact on business globally. Whilst blank sailings have been occurring along with tighter ocean capacity, it should be noted that trade capacity is up despite the difficulties in the market.
Usually, blank sailings occur when demand for carrier space is less. A thing to remember is that with fewer sailings being available it means that a carrier can ensure vessel space is filled up and also freight rates along with it. Blank sailings tend to occur following big seasonal holidays such as New Years but leading up to it, there will be fewer blank sailings with trade being up to facilitate seasonal demand hikes in trade.