May 21 - Project cargo consigned to ocean containers suffers from delays and service failures despite industry-wide vessel schedule reliability improvements to 72.3 percent in the first quarter of 2012.

At the same time, carriers' service standards for some commercial processes remain as low as 40 percent, according to a report by London-based shipping consultants Drewry Maritime Research (DMR).

DMR's new quarterly report Carrier Performance Insight reveals that Drewry now monitors container carrier service quality monthly or quarterly against seven Key Performance Indicators (KPI) or metrics:

- Vessel schedule reliability 
- Elapsed time between shipping instruction and bill of lading issue 
- On-time shipment of cargo 
- Port-to-port transit time against schedule 
- Cargo availability at destination port 
- Average US inland transit times 
- Port dwell times

The latest result represents a 2.9 percentage point improvement on the previous record 69.4 percent on-time average recorded in the last quarter of 2011 and means that there have been reliability gains in four consecutive quarters.

The most reliable carriers in the period were Maersk Line and its sister company Safmarine, followed by Hanjin Shipping.

The KPIs use data from e-commerce platform CargoSmart that measure commercial and operational performance at the box-level.