Climate change blamed for shoddy schedule keeping

The world’s major shipping lanes are more frequently being disrupted my severe climate effects, said Jeremy Nixon, chief executive of Ocean Network Express, at the TOC Asia Container Supply Chain conference in Singapore.

According to Mr Nixon global warming has triggered more adverse and variable weather across key shipping lanes, including a “remarkable increase” since 2016 when there were only 9 major typhoons in Asia, compared with 13 in 2017 and 17 last year.

“Unfortunately, the typhoons go straight through the middle of our key shipping lanes. “And they track at a relatively slow pace, so when that happens it’s creating disruption to vessels passing up and down within Asia; but also, critically, it’s impacting the actual ports themselves – particularly those in China as well as in Korea and Japan.”

So much so, Mr Nixon noted, the port of Shanghai was closed for eight days in August last year, compared with just one during the same month in 2017. There were 28 days of terminal closures between April-August 2018, he added.

“This is major disruption, and previously when there were low terminal utilisation levels you could catch up relatively quickly in terms of operations. But because now the terminals are working at a much higher occupancy, particularly in mainland China, the ability to recover is slow and that has an additional impact.”

Elsewhere, the recent heavy weather in North America had a big impact on rail operations, according to Mr Nixon, while Europe has suffered from flooding and strong weather systems in the Bay of Biscay and the transatlantic.

Sea-Intelligence Consulting chief executive Alan Murphy said carrier schedule reliability fell to record-low levels in 2018 – the worst in seven years since the analyst began recording reliability data.

“Service levels have been very bad, especially on the transpacific trade where two out of three vessels arriving are more than a day late,” Mr Murphy said.

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