Do cargo vessels change a scheduled port while underway?

I’m tracking the car carrier Swift Ace because I have ordered a new car and it is onboard at the moment. She’s bound from Emden, Germany to the East coast of the U.S., scheduled to offload cars in Baltimore and then proceed to Jacksonville. The ship is now off the coast of Portugal and continues to head SSW apparently in an attempt to avoid high winds and high waves.

Would a ship like this ever find herself so far South while seeking better sailing conditions that it would make sense to change her schedule to visit Jacksonville first and then head North to Baltimore; i.e. reverse the sequence of her scheduled ports of call?

Or are port schedules cast in stone for one reason or another?

Port schedules are not cast in stone but I’d say it’s not likely that the port sequence would change to save distance on an ocean crossing.

A more likely reason to change port sequence is to avoid delays in a particular port, say port congestion for example. In that case it depends on how the vehicles are loaded.

If possible the vehicles are sometimes stowed so that port sequence can be changed without cargo getting blocked by vehicles for other ports. In some cases some vehicles may be blocking, then it depends on how many and what the cost to shift.

If there are only two discharge ports probably far too many vehicles blocking to make it worthwhile changing port sequence.

Thanks. Even though I’m very old, as my new Porsche gets closer I find my brain functioning more and more like an excited five-year-old waiting for Christmas. The Swift Ace was originally scheduled to go directly to Jacksonville, but before it left port they changed the first landfall to Baltimore. My five-year-old brain is hoping against hope that they might change it back.
Don’t worry. I won’t be driving like a five-year-old. When I’m behind the wheel, what’s left of my brain is that of a seventeen-year-old. :clown_face:

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Can’t speak for car carriers, but not unusual in the oil industry to change ports. Brokers are bidding on the cargo even while underway. I recall one trip from Texas my destination with 250k barrels of heating oil changed 3-4 times during a winter trip to the Northeast coast.

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It’s possible that if there are only few high-value cars aboard, they may be stowed such that they can be discharged in any port order.

So I guess the answer is more likely keep BAL-JAX but depending on the stow they may be able to change.


an example of non-fungibility, if Person A lends Person B his car, it is not acceptable for Person B to return a different car, even if it is the same make and model as the original car lent by Person A. Cars are not fungible with respect to ownership, but the gasoline that powers the cars is fungible.


As I said, no relation to car carriers. Many ships change destinations, Is fungibility a real word? Many ships change original destinations for whatever reasons. I know you are always there for me, LMAO

I remember changing our destinations several times on one leg of one voyage. . . but the company was bankrupt and the ship had already been arrested once. . . and there were also some mitigating political issues at the time, too. . . one hell of a way to spend the Christmas season (and Christmas Day) in '78. . . . but we didn’t have any cars onboard.

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I believe the question has been answered but I’ll throw my 2 cents in. With regards to the OP’s situation it is possible the Swift Ace could skip Baltimore altogether if the right circumstances prevailed. If for example, she was delayed by weather , mechanical difficulties, diversions, or whatever to an extent she could never get back on schedule. She might go directly to Jacksonville to discharge and load. Cargo meant for Baltimore or to be loaded from there could be trained.

This happened on my ship once or twice. They were so late getting into Tacoma they skipped Oakland and sailed for next port Honolulu. Oakland cargo got sent up to Tacoma for loading and vice versa. Otherwise we could never have gotten back on schedule. Schedule is important in liner trades.

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Thanks to everyone for their comments. From what I read here, it seems as though the schedule could change, but it is unlikely. Even though the ship is South of Baltimore, she’s still far enough out that a small change in course (or several of them) as the weather along the track improves, would not incur much penalty in overall distance.

There is absolutely nothing I can to about the schedule anyway and I will have to wait for the car to be delivered to my local dealer no matter what happens. But I can’t help myself when I start thinking like a 5 year-old kid waiting for Christmas. Sorry about that.


It’s not uncommon for used cars or heavy equipment to get transshipped but for new cars it’s far less common. Aside from the added cost of each ‘move’ each additional move adds to the risk of damage.

It could happen of course but there’s a lot of incentive to keep the number of move at a minimum, especially for high-value new cars. Car being struck by lashing gear is the source of a lot of dings and dents.

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On a somewhat related note, I was surprised at the amount of clout that one single auto maker had shortly after the events of 9/11. The CBP wanted a small section of VW’s multi-acre parking lot adjacent to an exit in the port of Houston to build a container inspection station. They backed off when the automaker told them to go pound sand. As a result the station was built in a much less convenient location inside the port which necessitated a convoluted redesign of the truck traffic pattern.

Way back when as second mate and as mate in tankers changing cargo destinations were the bane of my existence. Even back then there was a requirement for passage plans and a written programme for the discharge and Ballast sequence depending on the tide.


I don’t think the amount of risk entailed in the crew having to deal with changes to the ship’s schedule is fully appreciated.

This is from the Hoegh Osaka report, the one that rolled on it’s side in Southampton.


Changing the load port rotation like that means everything that was planned in advance now has to be redone. The report never mentions this again but likely it meant the three senior deck officers would have been extremely busy re-planning everything.

Me and the Chief.
To be fair I usually didn’t have to do a full plan, Most guys used to keep their plans in their own book.
I might get asked by the old man to come up with a distance and eta to half a dozen different places and give them to the chief for fuel figures.
Before an actual port existed.
We would head often out with vague general order Suez for orders, where we would end up a mystery.

Could have been worse I might have been the Mate,

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The last ship I was on changed ports mid-trip due to weather. It’s very common.