What is a Blank sailing..??

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..

Image for ship skedDue 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..

image for container shipExample : 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..

Image for blank sailing Other reasons for blank sailing could be

  1. Decreasing capacity on a certain route in order to stabilize freight rates
  2. Urgent repairs that can be carried out only at a certain port
  3. Ship has to be off-hired for some reason
  4. 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..??


14 thoughts on “What is a Blank sailing..??

  1. Can be blank sailing also skipping whole one vessel in week (e.g. when there is scheduled for departure one vessel per week for current service and due to some reason – e.g. Chinese holidays one vessel is skipped?)

  2. what happens to the cargoes that were loaded before Santos (ie Singapore) for unloading in Durban?

    • Hello, I am a little bit late but.. can we have an answer to the question above? Does your example mean the goods that were loaded in Singapore for unloading in Durban will be unloaded in Santos in order to wait the next vessel? If so, who is responsible to pay the extra port cost? (One more unloading/loading).

      Thank you for your answer

    • The containers are unloaded at another port along the way and picked up by the next vessel. Extra cost covered by SSL.

  3. I came to this website from here : http://shipandbunker.com/news/world/325573-maersk-line-profits-more-than-triple-in-2013 after reading about how maersk managed to have profits despite dropping prices and didn’t understand what blanked sailing meant.
    Quote: “To minimize the impact of the low and volatile freight rate environment Maersk Line continued to absorb capacity by active capacity adjustments throughout the year in the form of idling, slow steaming, and blanked sailings”

    Thanks for the article, it was very helpful.

  4. If the shipping line announces a blank sailing in advance , its called a Blank Sailing program . Is that correct? otherwise its an omission of a call ..

  5. Dear Hariesh and all readers,

    Blank sailing may be the omission of a full rotation also. this happens a lot before and during the chinese good year as ex. this period being a low export period some carriers may ‘cancel’ some sailing for a full rotation.
    For some interested, you may search ‘blank sailing’ on cma-cgm website and you’ll see how it is announced by a shipping line

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