Even as Shanghai reopens after two months of COVID-19 lockdowns, container lines continue to blank sailings at the world’s busiest port and at Ningbo, presenting challenges for North-American importers ahead of an expected earlier peak season.

Trans-Pacific carriers may be adding capacity over the next 12 weeks, as tracked by Sea-Intelligence Maritime Analysis, but they’re also continuing to blank sailings at the two major Chinese ports which have seen volumes decline due to trucking restrictions. Routings between Asia and the US West Coast will see the most skipped voyages over the next four weeks, according to Sea-Intelligence.

The blank sailings reflect carriers’ efforts to regain some schedule reliability, rather than container lines not seeing enough demand to warrant a port call, forwarders tell JOC.com. Asia–US West Coast on-time performance reached 21 percent in April, up slightly from March but still well below pre-pandemic averages, according to Sea-Intelligence.

Forwarders are split on just how tight shipping capacity will be later this month, when the earlier-than-normal peak season is expected to begin.

Trucking is the biggest challenge, drivers will have to produce negative tests, almost on a daily basis. Nearby cities have their own restrictions that will affect trucking capacity and lead to higher costs.

According to Sea-Intelligence, weekly deployed capacity on the trans-Pacific increased to 646,500 TEU in the week ending June 5, and will remain near that level until early August. The increase will be led by non-alliance carriers that are forecast to boost capacity by 20 to 35 percent on Asia-North America West Coast services, according to the maritime analyst.

As of this week, the sailing schedules of THE Alliance members — Hapag-Lloyd, HMM, Ocean Network Express, and Yang Ming — showed 36 blank sailings for Shanghai, including eight on trans-Pacific services.

That compared with 46 blank sailings across all services at the start of May, although this subsequently increased during the month to more than 60 canceled sailings.

The three main alliances are also canceling 58 sailings at Ningbo in June. Ningbo has been used as an alternative load and discharge port to Shanghai by shippers trying to overcome the shortage of trucking capacity caused by the lockdown in Shanghai.

While Shanghai saw a decline in volumes, throughput at Ningbo actually increased by around 32 percent in April and 13 percent in May.

Maersk said all depots and warehouse operations in Shanghai resumed operations Wednesday, although drivers still need to show negative COVID-19 test results and health and travel documents when arriving at warehouses. Productivity is also improving at Shanghai’s main container terminals at Yangshan and Waigaoqiao as more dock workers return to work, CMA CGM said.

(JOC)