A group of leading Asian and European shipping lines, including China's Cosco Shipping, French CMA CGM, Taiwan's Evergreen, and Hong Kong's Orient Overseas Container Line, have announced plans to extend their vessel-sharing agreement amidst challenging market conditions.

Continuing Cooperation

Originally forming the Ocean Alliance back in 2017, the companies have agreed to extend the current agreement, set to expire in 2027, for at least another five years until 2032. This decision aims to solidify their commitment to meeting customer needs and ensuring the provision of a stable and reliable service.

In the face of overcapacity and declining freight rates plaguing the shipping industry, this strategic move by the alliance aligns with efforts to address challenges stemming from a turbulent market environment. Following a period of unprecedented growth driven by the surge in demand during the pandemic, the industry is now grappling with decreased profitability and operational disruptions.

Building Sustainable Supply Chains

By extending their cooperation, the shipping lines aim to build more secure, reliable, and sustainable supply chains that can withstand the uncertainties of the market. The move comes as a proactive approach to adapting to current market dynamics and ensuring operational resilience in an ever-changing industry landscape.

Weathering the Storm

With freight rates plummeting due to overcapacity from a surge in new vessel orders during the pandemic, the industry faces significant headwinds. To counter these challenges, shipping lines are reevaluating their strategies, including route optimization, sailings adjustments, and fuel conservation measures to mitigate the impact of changing market conditions.

A Unified Approach

The decision to extend the vessel-sharing agreement underscores a unified commitment among leading shipping lines to navigate industry challenges collectively. By working together, the companies aim to bolster their competitive position, enhance service reliability, and deliver value to customers amidst a dynamically evolving market environment.

Recent Attacks Impacting Shipping Industry

Recent attacks on merchant vessels in the Red Sea are causing significant disruptions to the shipping industry, leading to both capacity and rate concerns. Vessels are being forced to divert thousands of miles to avoid hostilities, resulting in tight capacity as ships are kept busy for longer periods. This, in turn, is driving freight rates higher, at least in the short term.

International Efforts to Safeguard Ships

A U.S.-led coalition and a maritime operation initiated by the EU are working together to safeguard ships in the Red Sea. However, despite these efforts, the attacks have not yet ceased, leaving the industry outlook uncertain.

Maersk's Response to Capacity Constraints

Denmark's A.P. Moeller-Maersk has highlighted the immediate capacity constraints caused by the Red Sea crisis. The company has witnessed a temporary increase in rates as a result, which is expected to benefit its financial performance in the first quarter. Nonetheless, Maersk anticipates that the oversupply in shipping capacity will likely return by 2024 and into 2025, leading to price pressures.

Formation of New Vessel-Sharing Agreement

Maersk recently announced a partnership with Germany's Hapag-Lloyd to establish a new vessel-sharing agreement starting next year. As part of this agreement, Hapag-Lloyd will exit its current alliance with Korea's HMM, Singapore's Ocean Network Express, and Taiwan's Yang Ming by the end of January 2025.

Changing Landscape of Shipping Alliances

The largest shipping alliances currently in operation include the 2M alliance, Hapag-Lloyd's The Alliance, and the Ocean Alliance. Maersk had previously announced the end of its 2M alliance with Mediterranean Shipping Co., effective January 2025.

In conclusion, the recent attacks in the Red Sea are significantly impacting the shipping industry. While international efforts are underway to safeguard vessels, the industry faces uncertainties ahead. Maersk's response to capacity constraints and the formation of new partnerships reflect the evolving landscape of shipping alliances.

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