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Maersk again topped the liner shipping reliability rankings last year, according to new research released this morning by industry analyst SeaIntel.

The top two spots were retained by Maersk and Hamburg Sud in a year during which 19 of the 20 largest container shipping lines saw their schedule reliability decline, compared with 2013.

The only carrier to buck the trend was CSAV, with 77.8% of its vessels arriving “on time”, compared with 77% in 2013, the result of its limited exposure to the main east-west trades where liner operators encountered most of their scheduling problems. Maersk and Hamburg Sud had a reliability score of 83.7% and 82.2% respectively.

Maersk Line is also reported to be having discussions with Asian shipbuilders over an order for up to 10 container mega-ships worth a total of around US$1.5 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal. The vessels will have a capacity of around 20,000teu, which, if the reports are accurate, would regain the line its title of owning the world’s biggest ULCVs.
Meanwhile, average reliability in 2014 across the top 20 carriers declined by 7.6 percentage points to 72.2%, as carriers struggled to maintain schedule integrity in the face of adverse winter weather conditions in northern Europe and the US east coast in the early part of the year, and the port congestion that plagued Europe’s hub ports in the summer, and which continues to affect many of the major Asia hubs.

However, there was little surprise which factor SeaIntel decided was the most decisive: “The single incident that impacted carriers and shippers the most in 2014 was the heavy congestion in Los Angeles, Long Beach and in the main ports on the northwest coast, a problem that is still on-going,” it said.

Reliability on the Asia-North Europe, Asia-Med and transpacific trades was significantly hit. Asia-North Europe declined steeply by 13.8 percentage points from 2013 to 67.2%, while the Asia-Med trade decreased 4.1 percentage points to 69.8%.

On the transpacific trade, reliability decreased by 17.5 percentage points to 62.3% as port congestion gripped the west coast and at some points spread to the east coast.

SeaIntel said: “It began in June with a shortage of truck power that contributed to delays. Thereafter, the carriers reported congestion in Los Angeles/Long Beach and Vancouver in July, and in September New York and Norfolk were added to the list.

“In October, Norfolk and New York were removed from the list of trouble areas, and the carriers started experiencing congestion in Seattle and Tacoma, and a few services calling Los Angeles/Long Beach were suspended as congestion continued.

“By the end of the year, carriers could conclude that the situation in Los Angeles/Long Beach had worsened, with many vessels at anchor waiting for a berthing slot and turn around times in the ports had increased as well. The situation has neither improved in Vancouver, Tacoma or Seattle, and Oakland had also been added to the list of ports facing serious congestion.”

The best performers on the trade were niche carriers Matson, Hamburg Sud and Westwood Shipping. Matson managed to hit a reliability level of 96.2% with its Jones Act services to Hawaii.

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