Blank Sailing

Blank Sailing: The Ultimate FAQ Guide

If you have ever shipped a package, then you might have come across the term ‘blank sailing’.

Here are satisfying answers to your questions on blank sailing.

What is Blank Sailing in Shipping Terms?

In shipping, vessels usually have a specific route they follow.

They pass through certain ports at scheduled dates and times.

Blank sailing occurs when a ship either skips a port or the entire string of ports.

Blank sailing, also known as void sailing, usually occurs when a carrier cancels a vessel’s sailing from one port or through ports.

When the shipping vessel either avoids one port or foregoes the whole journey, it is known as blank sailing.

Why does Blank Sailing happen?

While blank sailing is not a very welcome development amongst shippers and carriers, it is unavoidable sometimes.

Some of the reasons why blank sailing occurs sometimes are as follows:

  • Shipping vessels usually have a scheduled time to depart and arrive at their destination. In situations where there is a delay at one port, blank sailing occurs due to some reason or the other.

The ship might avoid docking at some ports, to meet up with their scheduled arrival time.

  • Blank sailing also occurs when shipping companies reduce the number of sailings per week. In this instance, skipping ports and even strings is unavoidable, so there will be blank sailing.
  • Blank sailing happens when there is a rescheduling of sailing strings.

When carrier companies reschedule sailing strings, there is a transition time during which there will be some blank sailings.

  • Several other uncertainties and unforeseen circumstances like unfavorable weather conditions could lead to blank sailing occurring.
  • Major holidays are also a contributing factor to the occurrence of blank sailing.

The number of people shipping things after some holidays is usually low.

  • When there is a merger or alliance between shipping companies, the companies could create new policies.

The merger could lead to a change in the sailing strings, leading to blank sailing.

  • If the cargo load for a particular port is too little to be significant, blank sailing could occur at that port.

The shipping line could decide to bypass that port due to the insignificant cargo load at that port.

What are the Less Common Reasons for a blank sailing to occur

Some of the less common reasons for blank sailing are:

  • Delays caused by strikes at the port
  • A shipping vessel might develop problems that they can fix only at specific ports. This malfunction could lead to blank sailing as the ship getting necessary repairs, usually means bypassing some ports.
  • In situations where demands for shipping vessels are low, companies could plan blank sailings to boost demand.

What Happens to your Shipment if there is a Blank Sailing?

Once your cargo has been packed and readied at the port for shipping, you cannot change your mind about shipping it.

If blank sailing occurs when your shipment is already en-route, there might be a delay in its arrival time.

You might want to offload your goods and transfer them to another vessel, though this would cost you extra.

If you have already shipped your products and the ship has blank sailing, there’s not a lot you can do.

What is a Service Sailing in Shipping?

Service sailing refers to a shipping line’s regular shipping schedule through the same ports, over and over again.

Also, the service sailings usually occur weekly, and there are fixed days of arrival and departure at different ports.

Service sailing is like clockwork. The ships sail through the same routes at the exact times.

How does Blank Sailing Affect your Shipment?

Suppose the vessel on which you shipped your goods has a blank sailing, the arrival time of your shipment changes.

Your shipment could be loaded on a different ship with another departure and arrival time.

Sometimes this could cause worry and anxiety to the importer as the change in schedule is usually sudden.

How does Blank Sailing Influence Container shipping?

When there’s blank sailing at a port, it simply means there will be no shipments from that port for that duration.

This development means that there will be a reduction in the number of containers shipping out that period.

If you wanted to send out your shipment, and there’s blank sailing, it stalls your business.

 Graph showing the frequency of blank sailing on major holidays and a pandemic

A graph showing the frequency of blank sailing on major holidays and a pandemic

How do you know if there’s a Blank Sailing?

The shipping line usually announces blank sailings on their schedule, to enable importers to know how to maneuver around it.

When a particular port is affected by blank sailing, the sailing schedule clearly shows it.

 blank sailing schedule

Blank sailing schedule

Who issues Blank Sailing Notice?

The shipping line issues a blank sailing notice.

How can Blank Sailing affect your Business?

When a port is affected by blank sailing, it automatically means the cancellation of all shipments from that port.

Sometimes, even if you do not transfer the loads to a different vessel, there might still be some arrival delays.

Here are some of the ways blank sailing can affect your business:

  • Perishable goods would either have to be condemned or transferred quickly to a different transport vessel.

If your shipment of perishables is affected by blank sailing, it obviously will not get to you in time to be useful.

  • Some production companies do not bring in raw materials in bulk. These companies import only enough raw materials for a particular batch of production.

If such a company’s raw material shipment is affected by blank sailing, production will stop or slow down.

When the demand for a company’s finished products is high, they might lose customers and money in effect.

  • Shipments are most times held up at ports where blank sailings occur.

When this happens, some importers might import the same goods using an unaffected line.

Sometimes, the new order arrives at the same time as the one involved in blank sailing.

This situation could lead to a lack of storage facilities for the goods.

  • Some people might then have to sell off their goods at a cheaper rate for want of space.
  • Let’s say there is an event slated to hold on the twenty-first of February, and you ordered some equipment.

Assuming you shipped equipment on the second of February and the equipment was supposed to arrive on the tenth of February.

Due to blank sailing, it comes on the twenty-fifth of February.

At this point, the purpose for it is no longer necessary, and it becomes a frivolity.

This unforeseen circumstance might cause disruptions in event plans and activities.

It could also lead to the importer losing money as his product is useless when it arrives.

  • General delay on arrival time, could lead to the importer losing his customer base. Customers might ask for a refund from the importer if their goods do not get to them on time.
  • The frequent occurrence of blank sailing could put a small business out of business.

For a small production business operating from one consignment to the other, blank sailing proves fatal.

If the importer does not have any raw material in storage, and its shipment gets affected many times, bankruptcy might be inevitable.

  • Blank sailing causes businesses to lose money as they sometimes need to organize an alternative transport for their goods.

Alternative transportation, especially when there is a blank sailing, is usually expensive.

 containers at a port waiting for loading

 Containers at a port  waiting for loading

What should you do About Blank Sailing?

Blank sailings can be frustrating to importers, no matter what they are importing.

If blank sailing affects your consignment, you can do the following:

  • Firstly, you need to think smart. You might be worried and fretful, but the best option is to calm down and re-strategize.

There is no use moping and worrying, so you have to jump to action immediately.

You cannot do much about blank sailing, but try to make an effort.

  • Contact your freight forwarder to know what other options are available to you.

Your forwarder is more informed about sailing schedules and the availability of alternative shipping vessels.

  • Consider a different mode of transportation for your goods. If you need your shipment to get to you urgently, you should transfer your load to air freight.

It would cost you more money, but in the long run, it might be saving your business.

What can you do to Negate the Effects of Blank Sailing?

Most times, shipping companies inform their customers of blank sailings when it is almost impossible to do anything about it.

Due to this reason, customers have to be proactive and plan for such occurrences.

Below are some of the steps you could take to counter the effects of blank sailing:

  • Always have safe storage of raw materials. This storage is essential for production companies in particular.

Having some raw materials stored away ensures that production continues, even if your shipment is affected by blank sailing.

  • Always communicate with your carrier agents and freight forwarders.

Communication would help you to stay informed about probable blank sailings or schedule changes.

  • It is always safer for a business to have alternative transport arrangements on standby. This way, you ensure that in the case of blank sailing, your goods would still get to you in good time.

Although air freight is more expensive, making this arrangement helps businesses retain their customer base.

This arrangement will prove quite beneficial for shipments that are urgent or perishable.

Do Blank Sailings Affect Carriers?

The answer is yes! Carriers are also affected by blank sailings.

The effect on them is sometimes positive as blank sailing leads to an increase in shipping rates.

It could also be harmful because frequent blank sailings reduce their credibility and their customers’ trust.

Can you Offload Urgent Shipments during Blank Sailing?

Yes, you can offload urgent shipments at the port before you send them off through another route.

This process is very expensive and tedious because you have to pay for moving each container.

It is also a time-consuming process, and you should make sure it is the best option before proceeding.

You would need to contact your freight forwarder to analyze how much it would cost to offload and move shipments.

Do Blank Sailings Affect Shipping Costs?

Yes! Blank sailings affect shipping costs.

Shipping companies most times order blank sailings to increase their profits. T

his order leads to a hike in shipping costs for the importer.

When blank sailings occur, importers might incur extra charges to offload their shipments and change shipping vessels.

When an importer’s shipment is affected, he might switch to air freight, incurring an additional cost in the process.

What Additional Costs Arise due to Blank Sailings?

Some of the extra costs that could arise as a result of blank sailing include:

  • Having to offload your goods and move to a different vessel costs extra money
  • Ocean freight is a cheaper mode of transport, compared to air freight. If you change the mode of transportation to air freight, it would cost you more.
  • Sometimes shipments affected by blank sailing are usually left hanging at the port. The longer the load stays at the port, the more expenses it incurs.
  • Shipments that were affected by blank sailing arrive at a later date. Sometimes, their arrival coincides with the arrival of a new shipment.

If this happens, the importer might have to get extra storage space, which costs extra money.

  • Perishable goods that have been affected by blank sailing become useless.

This wastage means the importer has to order a new consignment, which means extra cost.

  • You might have to pay detention fees. An importer might have to pay extra money for not returning the container to the port within the agreed time.

How do you Avoid Demurrage and Detention Fees in the Event of Blank Sailing?

When an importer ships goods, the carrier gives him some free days to use the container and return it.

After the open days, he pays demurrage and detention fees.

When blank sailing occurs, and shipment is stuck at port, it incurs charges known as demurrage.

Detention fees, on the other hand, apply to containers that the shipper has received.

The longer it takes you to return the container to the port, the more detention fees you pay.

Sometimes due to blank sailing, the free days are already exhausted by the time the goods get to the importer.

When this happens, you have to pay detention charges.

You can avoid demurrage and detention fees by using SOC.

SOC is a   container that the freight forwarder owns.

You can bargain on the amount to pay if you exceed the free days.

This bargain saves you unnecessary demurrage and detention fees.

 showing the difference between demurrage and detention charges

Showing the difference between demurrage and detention charges

What are Shipper-owned Containers (SOC)?

Shipper owned containers are containers that belong to the freight forwarder or the person shipping the goods.

The shipper still has to employ the services of a carrier to ship their goods.

 shipper owned container (SOC) and carrier owned container (COC)

 Shipper owned container (SOC) and carrier owned container (COC)

What are the Advantages of SOC Containers in Mitigating the Effects of Blank Sailing?

When it comes to blank sailings, using SOC containers proves more advantageous to the importer.

Some of these advantages include:

  • Carriers sometimes are not willing to give you boxes for shipments to remote locations. When you use SOC containers, you can find the containers by yourself.

This type of container allows you have absolute control over the container supply.

  • Using SOC containers gives you freedom in deciding how to use your container.

You could choose to buy it or lease it for whatever duration you need it.

  • You are also able to choose in what condition you want the container, when using SOC containers.
  • Probably the most crucial advantage is that you avoid unnecessary detention and demurrage costs.
  • There is also no rush in the expected time for you to return the container.
  • SOC containers also provide you with the option of using a container that you need not return after use. These containers are called cabotage containers.

This process takes away the stress of returning the container after use, since you can sell off the container.

How has COVID19 Impacted Blank Sailing Rates?

COVID19 has increased the number of blanks sailing in the shipping world at the moment.

Shipping vessels now leave the ports almost at their full capacity.

This increase in blank sailing has been due to the reduced demand because of COVID19.

Trade routes from Asia to Europe and Asia to North America have seen the most number of blank sailings this period.

For example, by the first of June 2020, there had been 126 blank sailings from Asia to North America.

These blank sailings happened because of a reduction in demand caused by COVID19.

There were also 94 void sailings on Asia to Europe trade routes, due to the same reason.

 COVID19 blank sailing schedules

 COVID19 blank sailing schedules

Although there is hope that the demand will pick up with time, the number of blank sailings is still more than usual.

Do Carriers Create Blank Sailing Situations Deliberately?

Yes! Carriers sometimes create blank sailing situations to increase their rates.

This situation occurs when there is reduced demand, due to a significant holiday or a pandemic.

What is Rollover in Shipping?

Rollover in shipping means that the carrier did not load your container on the vessel.

Rollover could occur if your shipment does not clear customs at the takeoff port.

Rollover could also be because of blank sailing affecting the ship your shipment should have been on.

If this happens, it is up to your carrier to put your container on the next shipping vessel leaving port.

Rollover also occurs if a vessel already has too much weight load.

A ship having mechanical issues could also lead to your container not being loaded.

If your carrier puts your shipment on another vessel due to a rollover, the shipping company pays any extra cost.

If the rollover is due to issues with customs or documentation, then you bear the brunt of the cost.

containers ready for transloading

Containers ready for transloading

What is the Difference Between Rollover and Blank Sailing?

Rollover sometimes might mean you are getting your shipment at a later date.

This is where any comparison between a rollover and blank sailing ends.

There are a lot of differences between a rollover and blank sailing. Here are a few:

Blank sailingRollover


  1. Blank sailing occurs when a shipping vessel deviates from its regular sailing schedule and bypasses specific ports.
  2. Blank sailing could be a result of unfavorable weather conditions.
  3. The extra costs incurred when blank sailing occurs are paid for by the importer.
  4. When blank sailing happens, you have the option to switch transportation modes to air freight.
  5. Blank sailing could happen when your shipment is already en-route.
Rollover occurs when your shipment is not loaded on the shipping vessel.

Rollover could be a result of blank sailing.

The carrier pays for the extra cost incurred, except when the rollover happens because of an oversight on the importer’s part.

When a rollover affects a container is, the primary option is usually to wait for the next available vessel and load your shipment.

Rollovers usually occur at the port, during loading. Except in cases of transshipment


What are Some Tips for Dealing with Void Sailing?

It can be frustrating to any importer to find out that your shipment was affected by blank sailing.

The most important thing to do if this happens to you is to stay calm and avoid fretting.

Some tips on dealing with blank sailing are:

  • Firstly, you need to contact your freight forwarder. Your freight forwarder is more informed about the situation than you are.

This first action would help you determine your next course of action.

  • Secondly, you should have a meeting with your management team to bring them up to speed.

You can then discuss what options are available, as recommended by your freight forwarder.

Then choose what is best for your shipment.

  • You also need to look into other shipping options at this point. It would be best to consider the cost and other implications of transferring your shipment to air freight.

If no available carriers are going to your destination, this might be the best option for you.

  • If your shipment is not so urgent, you should consider waiting for the next ship out. First, make sure you find out the shipping schedule and if it suits you.

You should also consider the demurrage and detention charges involved if you decide to go this route.

Can you Track your Shipment after Blank Sailing?

Yes, you can! Get in touch with your freight forwarder or carrier to know what steps to take.

How can Bansar help you Reduce the Impact of Blank Sailing?

As your freight forwarder, BanSar makes sure to get your shipment on the next available vessel when blank sailing happens.

BanSar also provides good airfreight services to ensure that your goods still get to you in good time.

Contact BanSar today for all your freight forwarding needs from China.

Update cookies preferences