Evidence is beginning to emerge that carriers are abolishing some of their slow-steaming tactics and instructing ships to speed up to meet limited berthing windows. This as well as increasing average speeds on backhaul routes to prioritise the restitution of empty equipment.
According to the Loadstar “Captains had to go through so many hoops previously to get approval to increase the speed of their ships, other than for safety reasons, but now many of them have carte blanche to put their foot down to make berthing windows and tides,”.
Indeed, Maersk said last week it was “speeding up its network” to mitigate the impact of port congestion.The company, which posted a record $2.7bn profit for Q1, was unsurprisingly quite relaxed about increased charter hire, port and fuel costs, given a 35% leap in its average freight rates.
Shipping Lines first adopted slow-steaming back in 2007 against a backdrop of fuel costs which had spiralled to around $700 per ton. It is calculated that a vessel can save over $2m in fuel costs on a single Asia to Europe trip by slow-steaming (in addition to the lower emissions from burning less fuel). Slower sailing times also helped the industry to soak up chronic overcapacity by the need to deploy extra ships on loops.