What are blank sailings?in Maritime Knowledge by Ankur Kundu
A void sailing or a blank sailing is when a ship does not sail. More specifically, it is a scheduled sailing which has been either cancelled by the shipping company or the company decided to skip a certain string owing to some shortcomings.
A string is a set of ports served weekly by a carrier. For example, one string might be: Shanghai – Ningbo – Los Angeles – Oakland – Shanghai. The string moves in a circular direction but always along with the same schedule of ports with a fixed departure day of the week set for each port.
Why do blank sailings happen?
Blank sailings happen when the demand for space on vessels is lower than usual. If the shipping carrier wants to keep freight rates up, they have to limit the number of sailings. Demand for space on vessels is low following holidays like Golden Week and Chinese New Year after factories have been closed, so it’s common to see blank sailings during these times.
Every Chinese New Year, offices and factories in China would shut down for up to three working weeks so workers can head home for the festivities.
This sets in place a chain reaction, in which global import and export volumes plummet by two million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs).
The result is too many freight ships for too little cargo. For shipping lines, this could mean incurring losses from weak demand, as the cargo transported may not be enough to pay for fuel, staff wages and other expenses.
To better balance out the supply and demand dynamic, they may choose to introduce blank sailings instead. This saves costs and puts fewer ships to work, especially when there is little demand for space on vessels.
Another reason for blank sailings is when carriers are changing the number of strings per week. If the carrier plans to cut down from 10 weekly Shenzhen to L.A. sailings to 5 weekly sailings, blank sailings will occur during that transition time. Strings are also rescheduled when new ocean alliances are formed.
How do blank sailings affect your shipment?
If your cargo was booked on a sailing that has been cancelled, it will be rescheduled to move on the next available sailing. Your shipment schedule would be adjusted as per necessity.
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