Blank Sailing: What It Means & Why It Happens

Blank Sailing

Blank Sailing

If you work in an industry that depends on ocean shipping to get your goods to market, odds are you’ve encountered blank sailing at some point and you weren’t all too thrilled about it. Today we’ll take a look at this bit of freight-related jargon, explain what it means and take a look at why it happens.

Blank Sailing: A Definition

Liner services operate according to a fixed sailing schedule that consists of a list of ships that operate within a given service, along with their estimated dates of departure and arrival, as well as their ports of call. The port rotation is fixed so freight owners can plan their shipping schedules accordingly. However, it sometimes happens that a ship liner operator has to cancel an entire trip, or withdraw the call of a vessel to a certain port. When this happens, the port or region in question will have ‘blank sailing’, which means that for a given amount of time the port or region will not have a vessel ready to load or discharge. In cases like these, the line will announce it via their sailing schedule so everyone is on the same page.

What Causes Blank Sailing?

There are a number of factors that can lead to blank sailing. Sometimes blank sailing is the result of unforeseen circumstances like weather conditions, a lack of berth at port, sailor strikes, etc. Because a liner’s schedule integrity is dependant on its ability to call at its scheduled ports on its scheduled dates, delays of these nature sometimes necessitate that certain ports on a route have to be skipped. Other reasons for unexpected blank sailing include urgent repairs, the off-hire of a ship for any reason, as well as port closures.

However, blank sailing can also be a planned occurrence in certain cases. Sometimes it is put in place to reduce capacity on certain trade lanes due to a reduction in demand. In these instances, blank sailing brings the overcapacity back in line with average volumes in recent years. In other cases, it could also be engineered to give carriers leverage in contract negotiations or stabilise rate volatility that may arise due to front-loading of cargo.

So, there you have it – a concise guide to the phenomenon of blank sailing and why it occurs. Keep an eye on the blog in coming weeks and months as we share more interesting shipping-related news from around the globe. In the meantime, feel free to reach out to the Link Ship Chandlers team for more information on our marine supply services at South Africa’s major ports.


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