Container service reliability reached a new high in the final quarter of 2011 with an on-time average of 69% across all trades covered by Drewry’s Schedule Reliability Insight report. The latest result was up by 6 percentage points over the previous quarter. Schedule reliability has improved for three consecutive quarters, a feat only equalled once before between the fourth quarter of 2008 and the second quarter of 2009.

Despite the positive results, the report points out that when the previous record of 68% was set in 2009 a sharp deterioration in reliability followed.

“Shippers will be hoping that history does not repeat itself,” said Simon Heaney, researcher manager for Schedule Reliability Insight.

“The two best on-time results have been set during periods of low freight rates, which reinforces the notion that reliability and price are not directly related to one other. However, there is evidence that continued periods of low, loss-inducing rates do eventually wear away at carriers’ motivation to maintain reliability. Their commitment to reliability will be tested this year as we do not expect to see huge rate hikes,” Mr. Heaney said.

Maersk Line retained its position as the most reliable of the Top 20 carriers across all the trades covered by Drewry, followed by CKHY Alliance members Hanjin Shipping and Cosco Container Lines in second and third place respectively.

The vessel operator-only rankings had Hanjin and Maersk on top again with on-time percentages of 91% and 90% respectively.