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What are Blank Sailings and why are they becoming more common?

As demand for containers rocketed as the world came out of the Covid-19 pandemic, freight rates followed suit.

Now, as demand decreases, shipping costs have dropped just as dramatically. Whilst this has been seen as a positive by many, it has also raised the prospect of us experiencing blank sailings far more frequently.

A blank sailing, also known as a cancelled sailing, is when a carrier cancels an entire journey of a shipping vessel.

Supply Chain Advisors, Drewry, publish a weekly Cancelled Sailing Tracker.

At the time of writing, 13% of scheduled sailings were cancelled the previous week.

Why do blank sailings happen? There are two main pressures driving blank sailings:

  • Low demand - Recently, demand for shipping containers has decreased. This drop has meant carriers are unable to fill their vessels, and so the sailing is cancelled and any cargo booked on is rolled over to the next date.

  • Lower shipping rates – As demand has diminished, so has the shipping lines’ ability to command inflated shipping rates, as they did as the world emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic. In order to ensure a vessel’s trip is commercially viable, with lower freight rates, the ships need to be fuller. The net effect of this is if a vessel is not full enough to justify its trip, the sailing will be cancelled and the cargo moved on to the next available booking.

If your cargo was booked on a sailing that gets cancelled, it will be rebooked onto a later journey, meaning your shipment will not arrive until a later date.

With many expecting a global recession to further reduce demand across the sector, industry analysts are predicting blank sailings to become ever more common in 2023, as the industry adjusts to the new demand levels.

How we can help with blank sailings

For over 30 years, GCL Logistics have been providing expert freight forwarding services to clients around the world.

During this time, we have developed a strong relationship with the major shipping lines, as well as building an extensive global network of partner agents.

This dynamic enables us to offer our clients a truly agile and flexible service. We are not tied in to one carrier.

Instead, we are able to identify the best available option for your particular needs, then implement it.

To find out more about how we can help you overcome your logistic challenges, contact us today via email at, or call the team today on 0208 844 4030.


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