International wine delivery: How to navigate blank sailings

Wine is a delicate product that requires specific handling and shipping conditions to avoid spoilage or damage. Without the right container and safeguarding measures, temperature and humidity can alter or spoil wine quality.

So, it should be no surprise that shipping wine internationally is no small feat. And when you add economic effects into the mix, like the Ukraine war, international wine delivery can become particularly challenging.

In recent years, during the global shipping crisis, the international shipping industry was hit hard by several unexpected events like the container shortage and the Suez Canal block. A by-product of these events is often the introduction of “blank sailings” by shipping lines, which can cause shippers problems financially and affect their shipment’s ETA’s. 

So what are blank sailings, how they affect international wine delivery, and why is insurance integral to the shipping process?

What are blank sailings, and why do they happen?

Blank or void sailings occur when an ocean shipping line carrier cancels a voyage or omits scheduled ports from a vessels route.

Blank sailings can happen for various reasons, including:

  • Delays caused by strikes: Labor strikes by dockworkers, port workers and sailors can lead to delays or even cancelations.

  • Delivery schedule adherence (DSA): A carrier maintains a set route with timed departures and arrivals. In the event of port congestion or adverse weather, an alternative route might be taken to compensate for potential delays.

  • Port closures: China’s stringent zero-COVID policy led to many port closures and disruptions during the pandemic.

  • Port congestion: This is seen as a major contributing factor to the blank sailing crisis. The delays and lack of space to offload containers in ports led to carriers having to make alternative plans or cancellations. Bottlenecks have also led to port congestion and during the height of the shipping crisis, some vessels were waiting up to 14 days to berth!

How do blank sailings affect international wine delivery?

When international carriers cancel voyages because of the factors mentioned above, it can lead to a ripple effect in international wine delivery.

  1. It disrupts planned schedules and incurs delays beyond the shipper’s or receiver’s control. This can be problematic when dealing with sensitive cargo such as wine, as delays can lead to spoilage, damage from prolonged exposure to high or low temperatures. We recommend using an insulation liner to safeguard beverages on their journeys.

  2. International wine delivery can suffer from additional complications like increased costs associated with cargo management. For instance, accessorial charges like demurrage and detention can add unforeseen costs to the transport of the wine. 

  1. The lack of visibility in the international shipping process can further complicate wine delivery. When carriers cancel voyages or omit ports(blank sailings), it can be difficult for shippers to track their beverages and make contingency plans for further delays. Sign up to myHillebrandgori for global visibility of your shipments.

Even with the most robust supply chain with precise forecasting, planning and demand scheduling, some aspects of the logistics process are out of everyone's control. When a shipping line omits a port, the capability, agility and resourcefulness of your freight forwarder to find a speedy solution, is what will get you through it.

This includes finding new vessels and routes to accommodate international shipments, as well as notifying customs authorities of shipment changes in international ports.

Insurance: a necessity for international wine delivery 

Given the fragility of wine and its susceptibility to damage, loss or theft, international wine delivery without proper insurance is a big risk.

Insurance protects against losses and liabilities because of unforeseen events like:

  • Civil commotion, riots or strikes

  • Collision

  • Contamination

  • Damage resulting from natural disasters

  • Fire

  • Physical damages to goods (accident on terminal, breakage, leakage or road accident

  • Robbery or theft

  • Terrorism risk or war

  • Water damage

Hillebrand Gori’s insurance policy, designed specifically for the beverage industry and covers all high-value beverage shipments. This policy provides comprehensive coverage for wine, beer and spirits shippers with zero deductibles and zero excess and full compensation upon a successful claim being made..

The future of international wine delivery

Though the shipping crisis has abated, it’s not unrealistic to expect blank sailings to happen again going into 2023.

According to a 2023 report by Xeneta, falling demand will affect business for carriers and shippers, with volumes potentially falling by up to 2.5%. And some predict an even more significant drop in volume.

With international carriers facing continued uncertainties, it’s important to prepare for any eventuality with international shipping insurance. At Hillebrand Gori, we provide international wine delivery services backed by the industry’s best insurance coverage, so you have peace of mind knowing that your international shipments are in safe hands.

Let us help you manage international wine delivery with confidence. Contact us today to find out more.

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