July 15 - Maersk and MSC have announced a vessel sharing agreement - 2M - that will replace their failed P3 alliance, which will compare well in size with the G6 and CKYH alliances. But, asks Drewry Maritime Research, what about CMA CGM?

HLPFI reported on July 10 that the two lines had responded to the P3 knock back, by establishing a new VSA, which Drewry describes as a "much simpler joint coordination committee to monitor the carriers' network on a daily basis".

But, explained Drewry, the objective remains the same. That is namely to reduce costs by sweating  assets more efficiently between Asia/Europe, Asia/USA and Europe/USA, but since port rotations and vessel sizes have not yet been clarified, Drewry says that is it not possible to say how the carriers' market shares will change, or how their savings will compare with that envisaged by P3.

2M will not include joint marine operations, and with each party looking after its own duties, including stowage, voyage planning and port operations, service quality could be very different to that envisaged by P3.

Drewry asks: Will a shipper loading a container on an MSC ship really get the same schedule reliability as when loading on a Maersk ship, for example? Drewry's analysis has consistently recorded a lower level of reliability for MSC.

Maersk will want to continue its Daily Maersk service guarantees between Asia and Northern Europe, which could create further friction between the two new partners, adds the maritime research provider.

It is not yet known whether 2M will negotiate joint operational contracts. If this does happen, Drewry believes that it will be a concern to terminal and intermodal service operators, but an opportunity for the larger operators to secure more market share.

A bigger concern will be the future of CMA CGM, says Drewry, as it has been sharing vessels with MSC between Asia and Northern Europe, and with Maersk between Asia and the Mediterranean, since 2011, so will not be able to fill its ultra-large container vessels (ULCVs) on its own reasonably.

The game of musical chairs of the mega-alliances means that CMA CGM will now have to seriously consider a closer East-West vessel-sharing arrangement with someone else, therefore, the most obvious candidates being UASC and CSCL, suggests Drewry.

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