|The effect of high fuel costs on liner service configuration in container shipping|In: Journal of Transport Geography. Butterworth-Heinemann: Oxford. ISSN 0966-6923, more
Fuel costs; Bunkers; Liner services; Container shipping
For shipping activities, not least container shipping, bunker fuel is a considerable expense. In the last 5 years, bunker prices have risen considerably. An increasing bunker price in container shipping, especially in the short term, is only partially compensated through surcharges and will therefore affect earnings negatively. This paper deals with the impact of increasing bunker costs on the design of liner services on the Europe–Far East trade. The paper assesses how shipping lines have adapted their liner service schedules (in terms of commercial speed, number of vessels deployed per loop, etc.) to deal with increased bunker costs. The paper also includes a cost model to simulate the impact of bunker cost changes on the operational costs of liner services. The cost model demonstrates for a typical North Europe–East Asia loop that the current bunker prices have a significant impact on the costs per TEU even when using large post-panamax vessels. The model also shows shipping lines are reacting quite late to higher bunker costs. The reasons that explain the late adaptation of liner services relate to inertia, transit time concerns, increasing costs associated with fixing schedule integrity problems and fleet management issues.