Alliance competitors poised to cash in as 2M divorce gets messy Ship’s crew

From Mike Wackett (The Loadstar) –

Shipping community partners THE Alliance and Ocean Alliance are taking full advantage of 2M’s potentially troublesome split to strengthen their east-west networks and gain market share.

Both Ocean and THEA members announced network upgrades last month, while 2M partners Maersk and MSC kept their strategy maps hidden while the notice period for dissolving the 10-year VSA lasted.

However, it is believed that these conflicting strategies become more prominent in workplace discussions as the notice period increases, according to one source The Loadstar Communication has been kept to a minimum and the two airlines have “pulled in different directions” on capacity management.

During Maersk’s first-quarter earnings call last week, CEO Vincent Clerc said the company would release its standalone network plans “in due course, once we have operational control.”

He said: “We believe that we can actually create a network where we can increase asset intensity, so that we need less capacity to move the same amount of volumes, with less carbon footprint, more reliability and also very competitive transit times.”

“We can’t do that today in an alliance, we will do that as soon as we exit the alliance,” he added.

Meanwhile, THEA partners Hapag-Lloyd, ONE, Yang Ming and HMM are busy upgrading their Asia-Europe links after delivering new 24,000-teu vessels.

Alphaliner reports that the 24,000 TEU of the Japanese airline ONE ONE innovationCurrently on sea trials, the vessel is scheduled to operate on THEA’s FE3 Asia-Northern Europe loop, embarking on its maiden voyage on June 4 from Ningbo.

According to the consultant, the ship will replace the 16,010 TEU Hmm saltwhich feeds into THEA’s Asia-Mediterranean MD2 loop.

Alphaliner said: “Until recently, the FE3 fleet consisted of 11 vessels ranging from 14,600 to 16,000 TEU. The modernization of the service began last month with HMM relocating the 23,964 TEU HMM Le Havre and its sister ship HMM Gdansk to this loop.”

The FE3 service is the second THEA loop Asia-Northern Europe to be upgraded to 24,000 teu class vessels after the FE4 loop deployed 11 24,000 teu ULCVs provided by HMM.

As new contract rates settle at “just above spot,” the 24,000-teu behemoths are becoming the trade’s new workhorses, with shipping lines returning to focus on slow steaming and maximizing utilization to drive positive voyage outcomes. In addition, some THEA backhaul voyages from Northern Europe and the US East Coast to Asia operate via the longer route to the Cape of Good Hope to save on Suez Canal tolls and as a form of capacity management.

In fact, after a better-than-expected first quarter – due to the tailwind effect of higher contract rates that have not yet expired – shipping companies are under pressure to break even in the next trading quarters.

Following Maersk’s Q1 results last week, it’s Hapag-Lloyd’s turn tomorrow to update its full-year outlook. On March 2, the Hamburg-based airline said it expected EBIT to be between $2.1 billion and $4.3 billion for the year, but warned that guidance was “surrounded by significant uncertainty.”

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