Ocean carriers serving the transpacific tradelane have announced a wave of blank sailings to match those they have voided on the Asia-Europe route as a consequence of Covid-19.
And for cargo on ships still sailing from Asia, there is the threat of significant intermodal problems after the containers hit the quay, as they have “nowhere to go”.
2M partners Maersk and MSC advised today they would “temporarily suspend” one US west coast and one US east coast loop during the second quarter. Its Elephant service to the USEC will cease from week 16 and its Orient service from week 17.
The suspensions are in addition to the various last minute ad-hoc cancellations that the 2M has made for this week and next.
MSC said it was “redesigning” its transpacific network “to respond to lower demand due to the increased impact of Covid-19 across Asia, the US and Canada”.
“Additional blank sailings on other services may be announced during the coming weeks, depending on market demand,” added the carrier.
On the Asia-North Europe tradelane, the 2M has cancelled two loops for the entire second quarter and this week added a further blanking, which alternates between two loops, resulting in a 40% or so weekly capacity reduction for the alliance on the route.
Both the Ocean and THE alliance members have also advised customers of numerous blank sailings to Europe and the US in the coming days and weeks, but as yet have not published details of any service suspensions.
And Maersk advised today of two more blank sailings on its North Atlantic network. It said that, “in this unprecedented time of need” ,it was doing its “upmost to help customers with essential products that need to get to customers, shops and hospitals – such as medical supplies, food and toiletries”.
With normal visibility on forward booking forecasts all but gone, the carrier urged shippers: “If you anticipate that your cargo will not materialise, we ask that you please update your booking or cancel the affected containers.”
And chief executive for ocean and logistics Vincent Clerc told customers he was “very proud” of the carrier’s achievement in redrawing its network “in such short notice to meet the challenges ahead”.
“We understand that messages of force majeure from other sources may be causing you unease and disruption and I want to once again reassure you that we are doing everything we can to keep our operations running, and make every effort to uphold our commitments.”
But with most of the west shuttered by coronavirus travel and working restrictions, containers actually on the water are unlikely to get much further than their discharge ports.
Olly Magnus, chief executive of Ipswich-based haulier and warehouse operator Magnus Group, asked on LinkedIn: “The first big Asian string vessel is due in shortly, suddenly there is going to be a mass influx of containers, but where do they go?
“The majority of places are shut, so [they cargo] can’t be delivered directly; off-dock storage will be rammed, as will most if not all warehouses – then what happens?”