Container service reliability across all trades fell marginally in the third quarter with the percentage of on-time ship arrivals dropping to 73.5 per cent, down from the record high of 75.7 per cent set in the second quarter, according to Drewry’s quarterly report Carrier Performance Insight.

Drewry expects that the arrival timeliness of containerships and containers will decline again in the fourth quarter, due to the impact of hurricane Sandy and several disruptions from vessel winter programmes and blank sailings.

Despite the small on-time percentage drop, the average deviation between the advertised day of arrival and the actual day of arrival for all vessel calls was unchanged quarter-on-quarter at the record low of 0.6 days.

Maersk Line held on to its coveted status as the most reliable major carrier (defined as having a minimum of 100 voyage counts in a quarter) with an all-trades on-time score of 90.5 per cent in the third quarter, down from 91.4 per cent in the previous quarter.

Safmarine, by virtue of sharing space on many of its big sister Maersk’s services, came in second with an on-time percentage of 90.3 per cent to round off a good quarter for the A.P. Moller-Maersk group.

Hanjin Shipping dropped down a place, but kept a spot on the rostrum by finishing third with an on-time percentage of 88.1 per cent, down by 1.5 percentage points compared with its second quarter result.

The leading trio of lines were some way ahead of the chasing pack and the latest results revealed a worrying variance of performance between lines with a staggering 40 percentage point difference between the most and least reliable carriers.

“While the industry average is finally getting up to mildly respectable numbers, shippers should not lose sight of the fact those standards can vary dramatically between carriers when making their procurement decisions,” said Simon Heaney, research manager at Drewry.

The report also highlights how the carrier industry’s reliability issues seem to start before the box is loaded onto the ship as, according to data compiled by Drewry, about three out of ten containers are not loaded on the intended ship. The ‘On-Time Shipment of Cargo’ in the third quarter was 68 per cent, down by 1 percentage point on the previous quarter. As this Key Performance Indicator measures whether a box is loaded onto a ship as scheduled, any discrepancy at this point will likely mean that the container will arrive late at the final destination port, even if the originally intended ship voyage is on-time.

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