Last updated on 10th October, 2023

The surcharges that come along with blank sailing put a major dent in your company’s budget. In this blog, we’ll uncover why blank sailings are such a common phenomenon in the industry and how you can save money on its surcharges with Container xChange.

Picture this: Your container full of cargo is waiting at the Port of Le Havre to be loaded onto a vessel and reach its final destination at Jeddah Port, Saudi Arabia. The timeline is as follows:

  • Ship sails from Hamburg on 31st July
  • Arrives at Rotterdam on 1st August, sails out on the 2nd
  • It then reaches Port Felixstowe on the 3rd of August and sails out on the 4th
  • The next port is Le Havre on the 5th of August, sails out on the 6th,
  • Then comes port Valencia on 10th August, sails out on 12th
  • Arrives at Port Said on 20th August
  • Arrives at Jeddah port on 30th August

There’s port congestion at Le Havre and labor problems at Valencia causing the vessel to sail directly to Port Said. These are marked as blank sailings. Due to this delay your container at the Port of Le Havre has been rolled, collecting surcharges, such as demurrage and detention.

With SOC (shipper-owned containers), you can avoid D&D charges as you’re under no obligation to pay carriers D&D fees since you don’t have to return them at a certain timeframe. The good news is that you can lease SOCs in 2,500+ locations worldwide on our platform. Try our public search below to connect with 1,500+ vetted suppliers to source your SOC. Just type in your pick-up and drop-off locations and hit search to bag great deals on SOCs and avoid having to pay expensive D&D fees.

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What is blank sailing?

Blank sailing is when a shipping line or carrier skips a particular port or an entire voyage of a scheduled sailing route. This happens when a port is congested, or cargo handling and clearance are exceptionally slow. This is also known as void sailing, Blank sailing is not the same as port omission, as omissions take place when vessels are full or don’t have enough containers to pick up.

Carriers and shipping lines work with sailing schedules. They’ve got a fixed number of days to complete the schedule and get back to the base. These schedules give them published dates of arrival at the destination ports. Each port has a specific number of days to discharge and load the vessel.

These timelines are necessary at every stop. Keeping up with the shipping route schedules isn’t always possible though. A vessel may run late at a previous port for various reasons such as weather conditions or port congestion. To avoid more wait time and delays the shipping line has to announce a blank sailing.

This leads to a container rollover. The container is rolled over at the pick-up port until the next vessel with the same destination arrives. This impacts freight rates and makes container shipping more expensive for users with rising demurrage and detention charges. Luckily, you can avoid these charges with Container xChange. Our automated digital platform lets you lease SOC containers and potentially avoid expensive D&D costs that come with blank sailing.

6 reasons why blank sailing occurs and the impact on business 

There are several other factors behind why blank sailing happens. One major factor is the holiday season. For example, on Chinese New Year, factories close, and shipping demands are lower. However, there are more common reasons for blank sailing: 

Low demand for container space on a vessel Blank sailing largely depends on the demand for space on a vessel. If the demand is low for a specific string, shipping lines issue a blank sailing or cancel an entire voyage of a scheduled sailing route.
Shipping lines reduce capacity for higher freight rates Shipping lines resort to blank sailing mainly to optimize their operation and other services. However, they also use this as an opportunity to push up their freight rates by canceling previously scheduled sailings.
Port congestion Port congestion leads to unexpected delays in the scheduled routine. Thus, shipping lines find it easier to skip a certain port.
Mechanical problems in the ship Sometimes vessels encounter mechanical issues and require urgent repairs that can only be done at particular locations/ports. This hinders the originally scheduled sailing. 
Port strikes and labor unrest Just like port congestion, port strikes due to labor strife contribute to blank sailing. Such situations can take a long time to settle down and often delays vessel berthing and other services at ports.
Bad weather Weather warnings such as tropical storms at some locations require ships to play safe. This is done by canceling their trip to these regions. Sometimes, they also ‘wait out’ until berthing and sailing are considered safe again. This may delay the schedule too.

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How do blank sailings impact business?

So, how do the factors above impact your business? Let’s find out:

  • It disturbs the timely delivery of goods, leading to possible stock shortages, production delays, and customer dissatisfaction.
  • The ambiguity of blank sailings makes it difficult for companies to plan and manage their inventory efficiently.
  • The lack of visibility on skipped ports and canceled schedules creates added costs for shippers.

A way around these costs is to lease SOCs on our online neutral marketplace at competitive rates with no hidden fees!

How is demurrage and detention linked to blank sailing?

When a blank sailing occurs, there is a temporary reduction in available containers and space on the vessel. As a consequence, when the vessel eventually arrives at the destination port after the blank sailing, there might be a higher demand for unloading and returning empty containers. 

This increased demand, in turn, can lead to delays in container retrieval and subsequent return, causing consignees to exceed the allowed free time for both unloading (demurrage) and returning the container (detention). As a result, consignees may incur additional charges in the form of demurrage for exceeding the free time for unloading and detention for holding the container beyond the allowed period due to the disruptions caused by the blank sailing.

Filled containers are also delayed in this process. Terminal operators cancel work shifts at ports due to the lower imports. In turn, it’s almost impossible to adjust the pick-up schedule, so the containers are stuck at ports for longer, using their free days.  Here’s where demurrage and detention charges come back to bite. When the free days have been used, the D&D charges occur. Charges that can accumulate up to 20 times the value of the container itself.

With soaring D&D rates, it’s important to compare port combinations with the highest and lowest D&D fees to help you save a lot of money. There are many such tips, comparisons, learnings, comments, and the latest D&D analysis to discover in our report – Demurrage & Detention: Annual Benchmark 2023. Get an in-depth overview and industry insights about demurrage and detention charges across 65 ports and 7 shipping lines for free. Click here to get your free copy today!

Avoid D&D charges during blank sailing by leasing SOC’s on Container xChange 

With an understanding of D&D fees, it’s time to curb those costs with Container xChange using SOCs. With SOCs your daily rental fees do not depend on the duration of the rental. They stay the same price per day. Also, with SOCs when you lease containers from shippers, you’re under no obligation to pay demurrage and detention charges to carriers. 

You can find SOC containers from 1,500+ vetted suppliers at comparable and competitive rates on Container xChange! You can also negotiate a per diem charge with the supplier, just in case you exceed the free days. This charge is significantly lower than the D&D.

So come and lease your SOC container at the most competitive prices on our platform by clicking the banner below. And if you have any trouble along the way our customer support team is always here to clear all your doubts and get you to your box. 

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Overview: Navigating the current blank sailing situation in ocean freight

With all this news about blank sailings, it’s important to know what the current situation is like when it comes to this event. Below you’ll find the latest updates on blank sailing:

  • As of June 2023, it’d been reported that blank sailings had reached a post-pandemic low as the global container shipping markets returned to some form of normalcy.
  • However, blank sailings are climbing up again and are going to continue on this trajectory due to oversupply and import demand uncertainty, affecting capacity and trade routes.
  • There were multiple blank sailings announced during Chinese Golden Week starting October 1. Members of the 3 shipping alliances (Ocean Alliance, 2M Alliance, and The Alliance) had recently declared several canceled sailings in both North Europe and the Mediterranean regions.
  • The OCEAN Alliance announced 29 cancellations over the next five weeks, with THE Alliance and 2M following closely with 18 and 14 cancellations, respectively. Additionally, non-Alliance services are implementing 27 blank sailings during the same period.
  • The extensive cancellations of sailings during the Golden Week holiday by all three major alliances on the prominent trade routes may result in challenges for shippers and forwarders trying to secure shipping space for exports from China to Europe in the coming months.
  • Blank sailings during Golden Week will lead to unforeseen disruptions. It will affect backhaul cargo in particular as there will be cancelations in head haul sailings, thus, complicating supply chains.
  • Only 87% of ships will sail as scheduled in the next five weeks.

Despite the disruptors, however, Drewry Shipping Consultants Ltd. latest Canceled Sailing Tracker reports that the good news is that the number of canceled sailings has recently decreased to 13%, down from 16% during the Chinese Golden Week holiday.

What does the future look like for blank sailing?

Unfortunately, despite this little ray of light, we continue to see a decline in carrier service reliability. The shipping industry is grappling with a weak market and downward trend, with spot rates from China experiencing significant declines in recent weeks.

Shippers should prepare for higher shipping costs in 2024, as companies seek to offset the additional expenses resulting from stringent emissions regulations. It’s been forecast that supply will rise as a result of an increased flow of deliveries and rising demand for carriers running on green methanol to reduce shipping emissions. These environmentally friendly vessels have already received orders from major carriers such as CMA-CGM, Hapag-Lloyd, and COSCO. The larger fleet size will make it more difficult to achieve market equilibrium, which may lead carriers to plan more blank sailings in response.

Additionally, it was predicted earlier this year that practical measures such as consolidation and effective alliances between ocean carriers would assist in closing the supply-demand imbalance and further stabilize the sharply declining freight shipping rates. However, things may have gotten out of hand for carriers, as they failed to manage capacity to stabilize freight rates and suffered significant losses. To fix this issue, many carriers may continue to blank their sails.

In these challenging times, it’s crucial for all stakeholders in the shipping industry to stay informed, adapt, and collaborate to overcome the obstacles the industry faces.

To get a further in-depth understanding of the current scenario, read our analytical piece on blank sailing. 

As you can see due to several disruptions, blank sailings are here to stay for the foreseeable future despite the slight dip in blank sails. So, why not secure yourself against D&D charges that come along with blank sailing rollovers by leasing SOCs?

Find the best deals on SOC containers with Container xChange

With Container xChange, you can find SOC containers in more than 2,500 locations from 1,500+ vetted members. Increase your operational flexibility with SOC containers and gain control over your shipments; let demurrage and detention charges be a thing of the past. 

Here are some of the benefits you can have access to by joining our platform today: 

  • Access to a Global Network: Connect with a vast community of container users and container suppliers from all over the world, expanding your business reach and opportunities.
  • Easy Container Booking: Effortlessly find and book different container types, reducing time-consuming processes and streamlining your logistics operations.
  • Cost Savings: By tapping into our network, you can find the best container leasing deals and optimize equipment utilization, saving you money on shipping expenses.
  • Increased Flexibility: Scale your container inventory up or down as needed, adapting to market demands without the burdens of long-term commitments.
  • Trustworthy Partners: Work with reputable container providers and freight forwarders, ensuring reliable services and smooth transactions.
  • Transparent Reviews: Access real customer reviews and ratings for container suppliers, helping you make informed decisions and ensuring high-quality service.
  • Secure Transactions: Our platform facilitates safe and secure transactions, providing peace of mind when engaging with new partners.
  • Data-Driven Insights: Leverage data analytics to gain valuable insights into container availability, pricing trends, and market dynamics.

What are you waiting for? Don’t miss out on this game-changing opportunity! Simplify, connect, and grow with us! Click the banner below to find SOC boxes at your fingertips and take your container logistics to the next level. 

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Blank sailing: Common FAQs

What is blank sailing?

Blank sailing is a term used when a shipping line decides to skip a certain port or an entire voyage of a scheduled sailing route.

Why do black sailings happen?

There are many reasons why it happens, but the most common is when shipping lines want to reduce capacity to keep freight rates steady or increase them.

What is the difference between Blank Sailing and omit?

Blank sailing is not the same as port omission, as omissions take place when vessels are full or don't have enough containers to pick up