Are carriers blanking enough sailings ahead of Golden Week 2023?

We are now 5 weeks away from Golden Week, a national holiday celebrated across China.

As a result, factories close and production slows down and container shipping demand declines to and from Asia substantially.

Carriers normally counteract the fall in demand by increasing blank sailings to balance supply. However, with the absence of a traditional peak season in 2023 and with freight rates at a low level, carriers will need to make sharper adjustments to deployed capacity.

According to Sea-Intelligence, 2-4% of capacity is being blanked on the Transpacific and 6-8% is blanked on Asia-Europe. This was substantially lower than the pre-pandemic baseline.

Therefore, to match 2019 levels, 10 – 13 additional blank sailings will need to be added on the Transpacific and 6-10 will need to be added on the Asia – Europe trade.

With Golden Week only 5 weeks away, there is not much time left if carriers want to announce more blank sailings. Last minute blank sailings would give less time for shippers to plan contingency plans in the event their cargo is affected.



  • Trial operations commenced on the Yangtze-Huaihe Grand Canal, China’s second longest canal connecting two major rivers.
    • The canal spans 723 km and joins the Yangtze and Huaihe Rivers, with the Yangtze flowing 400 km through southern Anhui province and the Huaihe passing the north of the province.
    • The project’s total cost amounted to $12.5 billion, and construction began in December 2016.
  • Another significant canal project, the Pinglu Canal, is currently under construction.
    • The Pinglu Canal, which links Nanning (capital of Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region) to the Beibu Gulf, will be 134.2 km long.
    • Scheduled to open by the end of 2026, the Pinglu Canal will facilitate ship travel from inland areas to the Beibu Gulf near the Vietnam border through the Qinjiang River.


Central China to USA and Europe 

  • From SHA to Europe and the US, rates are expected to rise this week.
    • This rise is due to an increased volume of e-commerce bookings.
    • On the SHA to US trade lane, Labor day is at the beginning of next week so the market is busier than usual. 
  • From NGB to Europe, rates have remained stable, meanwhile to the US , rates have risen.
    • The final rate is offered on a case-by-case basis.

North China to USA and Europe:

  • From TSN to Europe and the US, Korean Airlines’ service is normal. Space will resume to normal at origin, although there is a backlog at Incheon Airport. 
    • Rates for Asiana flights have increased on these lanes. 
  • From PEK to Europe and the US, hot weather is currently causing loading issues. 
    • Major services from PEK to Europe include: Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, Air China, KLM, Air France, Japan Airlines.
    • Major services from PEK to US include: Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways and Eva Air. 
  • From TAO to Europe and the US, rates have remained stable this week.
    • Rates remain the same to the US East Coast, but have decreased a little to the US West Coast. 

South China to USA and Europe:

  • From CAN to Europe and the US, rates are increasing as the market approaches peak season in September. 
    • All shipments will need to be checked with the carrier for rates on a case-by-case basis.
  • From SZX to Europe, rates have remained stable, while to the US, rates have increased slightly. 
    • All shipments will need to be checked with the carrier for rates on a case-by-case basis.
  • From XMN to Europe and the US, the market is stable and rates remain the same as last week.


  • The Panama Canal Authority has set the current draft for vessels crossing the Neopanamax Locks to 44 feet. 
    • The low water levels from the extended dry season have led to operational adjustments, which has impacted larger vessels deployed to the US. 
    • With over 200 vessels stranded on either side, congestion at the Panama Canal has surpassed all previous records.


  • Here are some operational updates from Hapag Lloyd:
    • At the PSA 913 Terminal in Antwerp, yard utilisation is 75-80% and reefer utilisation is between 75-80%. 
      • There are ongoing bollard works at this terminal which is expected to be completed in October. 
    • At the PSA 869 terminal in Antwerp, yard utilisation is between 50-55% and reefer utilisation is between 40-45%. 
      • There are ongoing civil works at the terminal, reducing berths by 400 metres. This is not impacting operations. 
    • At the Antwerp Gateways Terminal, yard utilisation is at 45-50% and reefer plug utilisation is between 30-35%. 
      • The terminal has received three additional gantries which will be in full operation in September. 
    • At the Rotterdam ECT Container Terminals, yard utilisation is between 45-60% and there are gaps in the berth line-up, allowing for extra vessel calls. 
      • Two out of four out-of-service cranes are now back in operation.
      • There are equipment reliability issues which are leading to operational challenges. 
    • At the Rotterdam World Gateway, yard utilisation is between 60-65% and reefer plug utilisation is between 55-60%. 
      • Labour levels are good and there are no operational problems reported.


  • HMRC has pushed back the transition from CHIEF to CDS for UK exports from 30th November this year to 30th March 2024. 
    • HMRC have announced that they will be using this time to work with its delivery partners on IT testing and performance analysis.
    • The UK tax authorities are using a phased approach instead of a hard switch for UK exports. 
      • Businesses that have the IT functionality in place are able to move across to CDS by 20th November and will be contacted by HMRC to assist with the switch. 
      • All remaining exporters will be assisted from the beginning of next year. 

European Bank Holidays

We anticipate a shortage of availability and the occurrence of delays around the bank holiday periods. Plan ahead and allow extra time for your products to be delivered.

Aug 29 – Slovakia

Sep 1 – Slovakia

Sep 2 – Spain*

Sep 4 – Luxembourg*

Sep 6 – Bulgaria

Sep 8 – Malta, Spain*

Sep 11 – Spain*

Sep 15 – Slovakia, Spain*

Sep 18 – Switzerland*

Sep 20 – Germany*

Sep 21 – Malta

Sep 22 – Bulgaria

Sep 24 – Austria*

Sep 25 – Switzerland*

Sep 27 – Belgium*, North Cyprus

Sep 28 – Czech Republic

Oct 1 – Cyprus, San Marino

Oct 3 – Germany

Oct 5 – Portugal

Oct 9 – Spain*

Oct 10 – Austria*

Oct 12 – Spain

Oct 23 – Hungary

Oct 26 – Austria

Oct 28 – Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece

Oct 30 – Ireland (Eire)

Oct 31 – Germany*, Slovenia

Nov 1 – Austria, Belgium, Croatia, France, Germany*, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain

Nov 2 – Belgium*, Lithuania

Nov 4 – Finland, Sweden

Nov 9 – Spain*

Nov 11 – Austria*, Belgium, France, Poland

Nov 15 – Austria*, Belgium*

Nov 17 Friday Czech Republic, Slovakia

Nov 18 – Croatia, Latvia

Nov 20 – Latvia

Nov 22 – Germany*

Nov 30 – Romania

*Not in all regions

The route ahead

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