What is a Blank sailing..?? – is one of the questions asked by a reader Mahendra
In my previous post about Liner Service, I said “Liner Service – is a service that operates within a schedule and has a fixed port rotation with published dates of calls at the advertised ports..”
A sailing schedule has a list of ships that are operating in that service and it displays the ports that these ships call, its voyage number for that call and also the ports that it calls..
Due to various reasons, a liner service operator might have to cancel the call of a vessel at a certain port or certain region.. When that happens, that particular port/region will have a “blank sailing” which simply means that for that week or fortnight or month (depending on the frequency of the liner service) that area will not have a vessel to discharge or load cargo..
Any cargo that has been booked for that sailing must be transferred to the next available sailing..
This blank sailing is a normal occurrence on various shipping routes and the main reason maybe explained as below..
Each port on a liner service is allocated a specific number of days for the discharge and loading operation.. Sometimes the vessel might not be able to stick to this specific number of days due to weather delays, strikes, non-availability of berth at the port etc..
In such cases, in order to maintain the schedule integrity (ensure that the vessel calls the scheduled ports on the scheduled dates), the port that has the delay maybe skipped..
Example : Liner service from Singapore – Santos – Durban – Hong Kong.. The ships schedule is
- Sail from Santos on the 31st March to
- Arrive in Durban on the 10th of April
- Sail from Durban on the 12th of April to
- Arrive Hong Kong on the 30th of April
However, due to weather delays in Santos which affected its berthing, the vessel is expected to berth in Santos only on the 4th of April.. This 5 day delay cannot be adjusted and the schedule integrity has to be maintained and the ship has to reach Hong Kong on the 30th of April as Hong Kong is a main transhipment hub for the shipping line and a lot of containers will be compromised..
Therefore, a decision might be taken to skip Durban port altogether in order to make up for the delay.. This means that the cargo planned to be loaded from Santos for discharge in Durban will now be loaded only on the next vessel – maybe a week later and the same for the cargo already planned to be loaded in Durban for loading to Far East..
So for that week in April, Durban will have a blank sailing as the vessel has skipped its port call..
Other reasons for blank sailing could be
- Decreasing capacity on a certain route in order to stabilize freight rates
- Urgent repairs that can be carried out only at a certain port
- Ship has to be off-hired for some reason
- There is a severe berthing delay at a port due to a strike or port closure
So now you know what a blank sailing means..
While a blank sailing is undoubtedly an inconvenience to many in the industry, in many cases it might be unavoidable..
What has been your experience with a blank sailing..??