In the dynamic world of ocean freight, ‘blank sailings’ is a term that logistics and supply chain professionals, especially those involved in importing goods to the U.S. from Asia, need to be intimately familiar with. Blank sailings occur when a carrier decides not to load a vessel for a particular trip, effectively canceling a scheduled sailing. This can be due to various reasons such as vessel maintenance or repositioning of ships, or most commonly, as a response to market demand and capacity management.
Impact on Ocean Freight Rates
The immediate effect of blank sailings is on ocean freight rates. By reducing capacity, carriers can influence market rates, often leading to increased costs for shippers. This is a classic supply and demand scenario: fewer sailings mean less space, driving up the price for available space. For companies importing from Asia to the U.S., this can translate into higher logistics costs, affecting overall product pricing and margins.
Securing Space and Capacity Challenges
One of the biggest challenges for importers due to blank sailings is securing space on vessels. With reduced capacity, competition for available space intensifies. This situation can be particularly acute during peak seasons or when unexpected surges in demand occur. Companies may find it increasingly difficult to secure space, leading to delays and potential disruptions in their supply chain.
Delays and the Fallacy of Cheap Rates
Blank sailings often result in delays. Even if a shipper secures space on a subsequent sailing, their entire supply chain schedule can be thrown off. Additionally, opting for cheaper freight rates comes with a hidden risk. In a market influenced by blank sailings, carriers may prioritize shippers who pay higher rates, leaving those who have opted for cheaper options struggling to find space.
Recommendations for Importers
- Building a Strong Relationship with Your Forwarder is Crucial: They can provide insights into market trends and help secure space, even during challenging times. At DGL, relationships are everything. We build client confidence and foster long-term relationships through transparent pricing and sound market strategies. We go above and beyond surpassing other providers in agility, communication, and support, with guaranteed space at competitive rates.
- Plan and Be Flexible: Planning can mitigate the impact of blank sailings. Flexibility with shipping schedules and routes allows for alternative options when usual services are disrupted. DGL’s U.S. and China-based Operations teams will find the best schedule and route options to avoid blank sailings. Being continually consultative is part of the Dedola Difference.
- Understand Market Dynamics: Stay informed about the market. Understanding why and when blank sailings occur can help anticipate and prepare for their impact. DGL’s senior leadership, sales, and customer support team members will be in continual dialogue with you to ensure you’re up-to-date on every ripple in market conditions.
- Consider Premium Services: Sometimes, paying a premium for guaranteed space can be more cost-effective in the long run, especially if your supply chain is time-sensitive. DGL offers expedited ocean and air freight services whenever you need them. Our partners offer premium services and are on-call at your disposal.
- Diversify Carrier Options: Don’t rely on a single carrier. Diversifying your carrier options can provide alternatives when your primary carrier announces a blank sailing. Dedola is a decades-long strategic partner with multiple carriers, so you can trust that we are getting the best carrier option whenever you ship your freight with us.
Blank sailings are a reality in ocean freight that importers must contend with. Companies can navigate these challenges more effectively by understanding their impact on freight rates, capacity, and delays and by working closely with their forwarder. Proactive planning, market awareness, and strategic partnerships are key to maintaining a resilient and efficient supply chain when faced with the challenge of blank sailings.
Partnering with DGL
Your business is our business. With DGL, you’ll have a partner who helps you mitigate the challenges of blank sailings. We aim to exceed your expectations by succeeding where others have failed, offering valuable advice, secure space, and actionable alternatives. Let us be your market experts, keeping you informed and forearmed and keeping your cargo moving. That’s what we call The Dedola Difference.