Transit Time Trends: A Look at Three Port Pairs
June 29, 2020
During the pandemic, ocean carriers have blanked hundreds of sailings and cargo volumes have decreased. Blanked sailings not only limit shippers’ options for schedule options, they also have an impact on port logistics.
We were curious about the impact on transit times. Would blanked sailings mean that transit times might be faster due to less port congestion, or would it mean longer transit times due to slow steaming to control costs or needing to wait for terminals to reopen?
For shippers with time-sensitive cargo such as food, medical supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE), and manufactured goods with depleted inventories, shorter transit times would be good news to deliver and replenish inventories faster.
To find out, we analyzed three port pairs that are part of the Asia-North America, intra-Asia, and Asia-Europe trade lanes from December 2019 through May 2020. We selected port pairs where carriers offer several direct services with no port stops. Without port stops, we expected the transit times to be fairly consistent. In addition, despite fewer workers during this critical time, we did not find port congestion at the six ports. The three port pairs were:
• Busan, South Korea to Los Angeles and Long Beach, USA
• Laem Chabang, Thailand to Shanghai, China
• Singapore to Rotterdam, Netherlands
To calculate the transit times, we compared the actual departure time from berth at the origin port with the actual arrival time at berth at the destination port, based on live vessel data from the Automatic Information System (AIS). We included a vessel’s transit time in the month that it departed from the port of origin.
Two Port Pairs Trim Nearly a Day Off Transit Times
After analyzing the data, we found that the actual transit times from Busan to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and from Laem Chabang to Shanghai, both had decreasing transit time trends over the last six months.
The Busan route took on average 301 hours in December, and it took 284 hours in May of this year, or about 17 hours faster. Over the six months, the vessels’ transit times ranged from 251 hours to 361 hours. So, while the monthly average hovered around 12-13 days, some services took less than 10 days, while others took up to 15 days.
Similarly, the Laem Chabang route took on average 168 hours, or 7 days, in December, and it took 148 hours, or 6 days, in May, about 20 hours faster. The individual vessels’ transit times over the six months ranged from a speedy 131 hours, or 5 days, to 212 hours, or 9 days.
The Singapore to Rotterdam route, on the other hand, fluctuated over the last six months. It started with a monthly average transit time of 465 hours, or 19 days, in December, and increased to 481 hours, or 20 days, in May. The transit times for the individual vessels over the last six months on this route ranged from 439 hours, or 18 days, to 527 hours, or 22 days.
Fewer Vessels on the Busan to Los Angeles and Long Beach Direct Route
With all the news about blanked sailings, one might expect that there would be fewer vessels calling on the three direct port pairs. However, while we did find an overall decreasing trend in the number of vessels on the Busan to Los Angeles and Long Beach route, we did not find a clear trend for the Laem Chabang to Shanghai and Singapore to Rotterdam routes.
Balancing Transit Times with Sailing Options
In conclusion, the direct vessel routes from Busan to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach had a trend of both fewer vessels and faster transit times. The Laem Chabang to Shanghai route, while having a steady number of vessels over the past six months, also experienced faster transit times. The Singapore to Rotterdam route experienced both a fluctuating number of vessels and transit times each month.
While decreasing transit time trends on some port pairs is a positive trend for time-sensitive cargo, be sure to monitor the routes you use by port pair and carrier, as well as consider port stops and transshipments to estimate the transit times of your cargo for planning.