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August 3, 2022


min. read

Sailing Schedules for Container Shipping and a Free Search Tool

Our next freebie feature allows users to search sailing schedules for their cargo with similar ease to booking a flight for family holidays. Before we explain how the search tool works, let's unpack why we felt compelled to create it and make it freely available.

What is a Sailing Schedule?

The shipping industry is responsible for 90% of global trade, taking the vast majority of goods from Point A to Point B (ICS). To help keep track of time for all of those goods in transit, modern shipping relies on sailing schedules, defined as a specific carrier’s vessel leaving a Port of Origin and arriving at a Port of Destination with a corresponding ETD and ETA. While this seems straightforward, consider about 5,500 vessels go to and from 944 ports, in different directions, over 365 days in the year (UNCTAD & Costamare). Include that those vessels make several stops between ports. And also that hundreds of carriers operate these voyages.

Shippers and their freight forwarders simply want to get their cargo to where it needs to be, when it needs to be there. How are they to choose with whom, how, and when their cargo gets transported?

Challenges to Booking a Departure from Sailing Schedules

The first key challenge when it comes to sailing schedules, especially for popular routes, is near limitless options given the numbers above. Between carriers, dates, and transshipments, decision paralysis becomes imminent and kills productivity (doist). This problem gets compounded by a lack of data uniformity. Making sense of different schedules proves difficult when carriers use their own formats and terminology. For example, below are four different service string names for the same service among carriers within the same alliance. Shippers struggle with turning these different names and formats into one common language from which they can make decisions.

different service string names for different carriers

Another key challenge to booking the best departure from a schedule is balancing various stakeholders. On one hand, many stakeholders rely on the cargo being picked up and delivered on time. Exporters and importers make production and sales plans according to vessel schedules. Hauliers’ pickup and delivery appointments depend on departure and arrival times. And if all does not go according to plan, the shipper can face fees at many stages in the process including rebooking trucks, losing warehouse slots, and incurring demurrage charges. For this, transparency in selecting a schedule helps to avoid unplanned costs.

On the other hand, shippers compete for capacity. While vessels nowadays can fit up to 24,000 TEU, there are capacity shortages in the market (Marine Insight). And even in normal market conditions, shippers need reminded that they are not the only one looking to send cargo on a particular vessel and route. So, the shippers that invest more in reducing the complexity of sailing schedules create a competitive advantage when trying to book shipments.

Comparing Ocean Freight and Passenger Airlines

sailing schedules like airplane flights

Similar to how ocean carriers move goods at sea, passenger airlines move people through the air. In the US alone, the FAA estimates that they handle over 16 million flights per year with 5,400 planes in the air at any given time and over 19,000 airports. That volume of traffic within one country alone compares to the volume of global shipping. Yet, when one goes to book a flight, the process has little complications and comparing options is easy. A simple google search does the trick, and other sources like Kayak or SkyScanner provide interfaces that help optimize for cost and time. All of that comes for free to the user.

So we asked ourselves, why should the user experience be any different for shippers?

Our Free Sailing Schedules Search Tool

On that note, we are happy to say that here at Logward, we created a sailing schedule search tool that can help bridge the functionality gap between booking your holiday travel and scheduling your shipments. Available publicly and for free on our website, our Schedules freebie gives users an idea of how easily and quickly alternative routes can be observed and analyzed. Powered by BlueWater Reporting, the search engine intelligently analyzes and understands 234 global carriers’ own language to provide seamless communication between them.

sailing schedules screengrab

It works by simply entering port of arrival, port of destination, departure date, and time interval. Once the results are displayed, a user can click into a shipment in order to see a map of its route and a list of the transshipment ports along the way to the port of destination. Should they want to download this data or share it with colleagues, users can then email themselves a .csv with the detailed search results for all schedules.

Interested to learn more about our Schedules freebie? Or how you can incorporate Sailing Schedules into your allocations? Send an inquiry to our team and we'll get back to promptly.


Source 1 - International Chamber of Shipping: https://www.ics-shipping.org/shipping-fact/shipping-and-world-trade-global-supply-and-demand-for-seafarers/

Source 2 - United Nations Conference on Trade and Development: https://unctad.org/news/bigger-ships-and-fewer-companies-two-sides-same-coin

Source 3 - Costamare Inc.: https://www.costamare.com/industry_containerisation

Source 4 - doist: https://blog.doist.com/analysis-paralysis-productivity/

Source 5 - Marine Insight: https://www.marineinsight.com/know-more/top-10-worlds-largest-container-ships-in-2019/

Source 6 - FAA: https://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/by_the_numbers/

Logward is a Hamburg & Bangalore based logistics technology company.

We build software, move containers, and change mindsets.

If you have any questions or just want to say hi, reach out to mail@logward.com. Or you can book time with one of our logistics experts here.

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