At the beginning of this year, a 2014 Supply Chain Matters prediction and consul was that industry supply chain teams should anticipate continued consolidation activity for the ocean container industry. That indeed has been unfolding. The failed attempt among the top three global ocean container carriers to form the P3 Network was quickly followed by the announcement of the 2M Alliance and the Hapag-Lloyd – MSC merger. Now comes the next iteration.
Today features the announcement from French container shipping group CMA CGM that the service carrier has entered into service-sharing alliance with China Shipping Container Lines (CSCL) and United Arab Shipping (UASC). According to the announcement, the alliance will be termed Ocean Three, and will extend among Asia-Europe, Asia-Mediterranean, Transpacific and Asia- United States East Coast transit routes. The agreements will reportedly cover vessel sharing, slot exchange and slot charter agreements among the three carriers. Routes will be utilizing transshipment hubs common to the three partners. Rather noteworthy is that this alliance covers container shipments originating from the Middle East, Indian sub-continent and West Africa.
This new alliance requires the approval from the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission before it can go into effect.
Readers will recall that CMA CGM was one of the lines originally included in the former P3 Network alliance proposal, and was not included in the 2M Network alliance announcement among industry leader Maersk Lines and Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC). If approved the Ocean Three alliance will also compete with the announced merger of Hapag-Lloyd and Chile based CSAV, an effort to create the fourth largest global container shipping line by consolidation. That merger is still subject to approval from European Union maritime officials.
Industry supply chain teams and transportation and logistics service providers should anticipate further announcements related to consolidation as the industry domino effect continues. While the various ocean container carriers continue to point out the benefits of increased efficiencies, schedule frequency and overall capacity utilization from these consolidation moves, the smoking gun remains as to the impacts to future tariff rates.