Alliances order of the day

By: | at 11:09 AM | Channel(s): Liner Shipping  

The new mega alliances, starting with the massive P3 Network of Maersk, MSC and CMA-CGM, has created a new world order for container shipping.

The US Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) has given the official go ahead for the P3 Network, consisting of Maersk, Mediterranean Shipping Co (MSC) and CMA-CGM, to become effective as from March 24th.

The agreement gives the green light to the top three container shipping lines to start operations on trades covering the transpacific and transatlantic through both vessel and slot sharing agreements.

An official statement from the FMC states, “The Commission’s decision is based on a determination that the agreement is not likely at this time, by a reduction in competition, to produce an unreasonable increase in transportation cost or an unreasonable reduction in transportation service.”

But like every official agreement of this nature, there are provisions within, and these are quite explicit.

The FMC determines that there may be circumstances that could permit the P3 agreement parties to unreasonably reduce services, or unreasonably raise rates at some point in the future.

Such occurrences could raise concerns within the industry, and thus the FMC has directed staff to issue alternative reporting requirements to the P3 agreement parties, in order to assist the Commission in its ongoing close monitoring of the agreement.

But while the P3 lines have the official nod of approval from the US side, it still remains to be seen whether relevant authorities in Europe and in China give their acceptance of this combination.

The general feeling in Europe is that the European Commission (EC) will follow the FMC path, and sign off in the appropriate manner, although the EC obviously hasn’t made any comments to date on the issue.

In China, there is a reluctance to discuss too much in detail, particularly by the relevant authorities, but again, the general feeling is the official nod is not that far away for the P3 Network.

Back in the Americas, interesting moves in recent days as regional service network potentials come to the fore, and two of the P3 lines – Maersk and MSC agree to an important slot purchase deal.

The proactive slot charter agreement covers the US East coast/West coast South America trade which, apart from serving local market demand, will link up to mainline East/West connections operated within the P3 Network.

The new agreement initially allows Maersk to purchase up to 300 teu of space from MSC on the inter-regional service(s) already in place, or about to be launched on the USEC/WCSA trade.

This initial figure will however, increase to 350 teu with the introduction of the P3 Network mainline services, or in July, whichever comes later.

MSC’s main service covering the USEC/WCSA trade at the moment operates with 7 x 4,000/5,000 teu vessels.

Port coverage : New York, Charleston, Freeport, Kingston, Cristobal, Balboa, Buenaventura, Callao, Arica, Coronel, San Antonio, Callao, Balboa, Cristobal, Freeport, Philadelphia, New York.

The G6 Alliance: (Hapag-Lloyd, NYK, OOCL, APL, MOL and Hyundai Merchant Marine)

The FMC has unanimously approved the amended G6 Alliance agreement to extend the line’s co-operation to all major East/West trades including those between Asia and the West coast of the US, as well as the transatlantic trades covering Europe and the US east coast.

Previously the only coverage was between Asia and Europe.

The Commission said that the amended alliance agreement was not likely at this time to reduce competition or produce unreasonable increases in transport costs.

In an official statement, the FMC said its reaction on the G6 Alliance is based on an extensive, competitive analysis conducted by the Commission’s staff and comments received by shippers and other industry participants.

The FMC is expected to continue to review the competitive impact of global alliances, but the belief is quite plain, the G6 will considerably increase available capacity in the expanded geographic scope, and additionally has the potential to generate operational efficiencies and positive environmental benefits.

The G6 lines have wasted little time in firming up their Atlantic service network, and UK-based news agency, PR News Service has reported that Southampton will be the UK direct port of call on all the five new services planned for transatlantic trade due to start in mid-May.

To date, the UK port on the AX1 and PA2 had only been listed as “to be confirmed.”

Meanwhile, questions still continue over whether the new CKYHE Alliance comprising, COSCO, K Line, Yangming, Hanjin and Evergreen, effective on the Asia/Europe trades, will expand to include UASC and China Shipping Container Lines (CSCL).

All seven lines have a close working relationship on the major East/West trades through vessel and slot sharing/exchange agreements, but to date, the idea of a combined CKYHEUC is far from reality.

As senior executives within the CKYHE point out, “Just because there are many vessel and slot sharing agreements being put in place, does not necessarily mean the next step is a full blown alliance.”

Whatever the case, it is clear that the new world order in containership operations will be established by the mega-alliances. With most of the regulatory authorities giving their nod to the alliances with future reviews possible.

Paul Richardson's avatar

American Journal of Transportation