The mega-container ship Ever Given has been recovered and the Suez Canal is unblocked, but the real problems for shippers have just begun, with some lines refusing to accept Asia bookings (in either direction) blanked sailings announced and the ripples of disruption likely to touch all aspects of global Maritime trade.

In the short term, the Ever Given grounding will cause a drop in vessel arrivals due to the delay ships experienced during the recovery operation and subsequent backlog clearing and there are also the vessels diverted around the Cape of Good Hope. 

This initial lull will be followed by a surge at the ports as 30+ ships arrive, bunched up and all seeking limited berths, in Europe, the UK and then the US East Coast.

Even if the ports are able to use the lull to free up capacity, the ultra-large container ships popular on the Asia trade typically have a container exchange of up to 10,000 TEU, which stretches terminal productivity – and already restricted haulage resource – to the limit at the best of times. 

Anticipating logjams, it is likely that carriers may select vessels to unload cargoes, intended for multiple European ports, at one port in order to get capacity back to Asia quicker, leaving shippers to use feeders or other means to transport cargo to the right port. 

In simple terms the carriers have lost two weeks of capacity and to get back on track, they will skip ports and cancel sailings, which may reposition their vessels and help them recover schedules, but it also means that empty boxes are left behind, raising the prospect of further equipment shortages across Asia.

When congestion was peaking earlier this year, the carriers announced a large number of blank sailings – despite sustained high demand – to give them time to catch up and in terms of what has happened to capacity due to the Ever Given grounding, this is exactly the same thing.

The impacts of this event are already being felt and will reverberate globally for a few months, with services to and from Asia likely to particularly disrupted.

If you have urgent orders, in either direction, we would encourage you to contact us directly to discuss your options. Our DEFERRED air freight service is particularly popular for time-sensitive shipments, because it is cheaper than DIRECT and only takes on average 3-5 days, to keep your supply chain running.