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What are blank sailings?

It’s a term we’re hearing more this year than ever before with unpredictable shipping patterns of international trade.

But what is a blank sailing?

Blank sailing defined

Blank sailing (also known as void sailing) is a term used for when a ship doesn’t sail. It’s a scheduled sailing that has been cancelled by a carrier or shipping line so a vessel skips certain ports or even the entire route.

Cargo_116524280_sWhy do blank sailings happen?

There are many possible reasons for a blank sailing:

  • Cancelled docking
  • Not enough space on a vessel
  • Not enough staff to operate a vessel
  • Last-minute route changes
  • Shipping lines reducing capacity and pushing freight rates up
  • A vessel could be behind schedule and need to make up the lost time by skipping a port
  • A ship could need to stop for repairs

But a major reason for blank shippings in 2020 has been the pandemic and the unpredictablility of volumes being shipped.

Blank sailings and COVID-19

For carriers, sailing with vessels only half full or calling on scheduled ports with very little freight to load are not prudent business decisions. So, ship owners are necessarily modifying routes and schedules.

For importers, a blank sailing can create problems. Supply chains work best when they have stable and predictable schedules. The increase in blank sailings has disrupted supply and cause importers to be reactive.

One small change within one link of the supply chain can have a ripple effect through the rest of the links.

But for carriers, void sailings may be the best possible way to manage the unprecedented shifts in global demand in the wake of COVID-19.

Most of the conversation regarding blank sailings concern shipping routes from Asia to North America and Asia to Europe. Void sailings from Asia are common annually following Chinese New Year, but this year more than 149 blank sailings have been directly related to the coronavirus outbreak/global pandemic.

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