New round of ‘alliance musical chairs’ could follow ‘messy’ 2M divorce

Source: The Loadstar
Date: 7th March 2023

The looming break-up of the 2M Alliance, between MSC and Maersk, could be the catalyst for another round of ‘alliance musical chairs’, according to speculation at the S&P Global TPM conference in Long Beach.

Despite the 2025 divorce prompting carriers in the THE and Ocean alliances to close ranks and reiterate the longevity of their vessel-sharing agreements (VSAs), the highly-respected analyst and CEO of Vespucci Maritime put the cat among the pigeons during a jam-packed final day session.

It was predicted that the Ocean Alliance grouping of CMA CGM, Cosco (OOCL) and Evergreen could also be broken up, due to their differing aspirations and political ambitions.

However, this was soundly refuted by CMA CGM’s North American president during a ‘fireside chat’ interview with the Journal of Commerce executive editor.

In fact, CMA CGM said, there were plans to further strengthen the Ocean Alliance VSA. CMA CGM continued to believe the alliance pooling model for liner shipping “was the way forward”.

But the highly-respected analyst and CEO of Vespucci Maritime shocked delegates further by suggesting that not only would the alliances dissolve, but German carrier Hapag-Lloyd and Japanese Ocean Network Express (ONE) – which comprises the container businesses of NYK, MOL and K Line – could join forces in a fresh consolidation.

Unsurprisingly, on the back of a record $18bn net profit for 2022, the CEO of Hapag-Lloyd, doesn’t quite see it that way.

During the company’s full-year 2022 investor presentation, he said news of the break-up of the 2M was “not a huge surprise”, given the companies’ “vastly different strategies”. MSC and Maersk both had “the scale to go it alone and maybe selectively continue to work together.

And he added: “I don’t expect [the 2M split] to have a massive effect on the other alliances. The relationship in our alliance is good and we also have a contract that lasts until 2030, so I see no reason why that would materially change.”

Meanwhile, in an interview with CNBC last week, MSC CEO clarified that, despite the perception that it had been MSC that wanted to end the 2M, it was Maersk that wished to call time on the VSA.

“We were happy to continue the partnership, but Maersk wanted to go into a different trajectory,” MSC said.

“That doesn’t mean we will not be cooperating with anybody in the future. We may choose, in some routes, to go on our own and maybe in others we will still do certain alliance-type structures,” added MSC.

In the interim, MSC and Maersk said it would be ‘business as usual’ until the 2M VSA officially expires at the end of next year.

However, leaving the last word to the highly-respected analyst and CEO of Vespucci Maritime, he suggested that the lead-up period could “get messy”.

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