Fears of another Asia-Europe rates war with launch of mega alliances

Fears of another Asia-Europe rates war with launch of mega alliances

THERE are concerns that the launch of three new mega shipping alliances on April 1 could trigger another rates war on the Asia-Europe westbound trade, as rivals may compete over expanding their market share.

19 March 2017 - 20:00 - Update: 19 March 2017 - 21:34

According to data from Alphaliner, the 2M+HMM (including Hamburg Sud), the Ocean Alliance and THE Alliance will offer 17 weekly strings between Asia and North Europe - one more than currently provided by the existing four alliances.

The analyst says total weekly capacity on the route will rise by 9.6 per cent, with the greatest increase coming from the 2M, which, apart from upsizing its five loops to ships of 18,000-20,000 TEU, will introduce a sixth loop, reported THE Loadstar.

Maersk and MSC claim the extra AE7/Condor service is needed to accommodate the extra volumes from the slot charter agreements with HMM and Hamburg Sud. The extra loop and the vessel upgrading will boost the 2M's average weekly capacity between Asia and North Europe by 23 per cent, from 83,500 TEU to 103,000 TEU in April.

Of this extra capacity, Alphaliner reports that HMM will take 6,000 TEU and Hamburg Sud 4,000 TEU, leaving - in theory - 10,000 TEU of available slots to be shared between Maersk and MSC on the new service.

Anecdotal reports and contract indices suggest that the container shipping lines have been successful in hiking mid- and long-term rates on the route, and Alphaliner points out that spot rates remain at over US$800 per TEU, compared with the $200 sub-economic levels of a year ago.

Alphaliner also argues that the new alliances will be reluctant to concede market share.

"No void sailings are scheduled on any new strings to be launched in April, even though some of the old services, in the process of being phased out, will provide overlapping services." This, it added, would "result in additional capacity on the route during the transitional period."

According to Alphaliner, the new alliance capacity share between Asia and North Europe from April 1 will be: 40 per cent controlled by 2M+HMM, 35 per cent by the Ocean Alliance and 25 per cent by THE Alliance.




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