In the four weeks leading up to Chinese New Year, blanked sailings announced before January 6 from Asia to the U.S. West Coast are more than six times higher than the weeks leading up to the holiday in 2019, according to the latest update from Xeneta.

"This number could still increase as we approach the Chinese New Year (CNY), which is being celebrated on January 22. Carriers have already announced the blanking of 220,489 TEUs, an increase from the 29,796 TEUs blanked in the four weeks up to CNY in 2019."

It is common to have a few blanked sailings before CNY as shippers stock up ahead of the holidays. "Carriers limit their offerings in the following weeks to match the fall in Chinese manufacturing and subsequent exports.

"The high level of blank sailings ahead of the holiday this year shows just how low demand is with little to prop carriers' hopes for the rest of the year. In the week of the holiday, announced blank sailings from Asia to the U.S. West Coast stand at 57,970 TEUs. This is a considerable increase from the 6,800s TEU blanked in 2019. However, there is still a chance for this year's number to get even higher."

Despite the big increases from 2019 levels, blanked capacity in 2023 has almost halved from the weeks around CNY in 2022. Last year, carriers were forced to blank a huge share of scheduled capacities due to the delays on the trade. "In some cases, there was more than a week delay in roundtrips, making it impossible for ships to get back in time for their next scheduled departure."

The announced blank sailings for the four weeks following CNY are 68,000 TEUs lower than they were in 2019. However, with plenty of time left for carriers to remove more capacity, this year's total will most likely eclipse 2019's number, the update added.

"It's the same story for other major trades out of the Far East. To North Europe, blank sailings in the four weeks leading up to CNY are 715 percent higher than in 2019, currently standing at 226,000 TEUs, while those from the Far East to the U.S. East Coast have risen by 340 percent to 140,000 TEUs."

In 2019, there were no blank sailings in the four weeks up to CNY from the Far East to the Mediterranean whereas this year, there are 59,600 TEUs, Xeneta said in its update.

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