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Shippers fear new container shipping alliances will crush market competition

THE rise of new mega container shipping alliance controlling major trade lanes is creating "real potential competition issues" due to independent carriers being forced out of the market, according to a new report from the Global Shippers' Forum (GSF). 

Shippers fear new container shipping alliances will crush market competition

THE rise of new mega container shipping alliance controlling major trade lanes is creating "real potential competition issues" due to independent carriers being forced out of the market, according to a new report from the Global Shippers' Forum (GSF). 

Shippers fear new container shipping alliances will crush market competition
18 November 2016 - 07:07

Shippers fear new container shipping alliances will crush market competition
THE rise of new mega container shipping alliance controlling major trade lanes is creating "real potential competition issues" due to independent carriers being forced out of the market, according to a new report from the Global Shippers' Forum (GSF). 
In the report entitled 'The Implications of Mega-Ships and Alliances for Competition and Total Supply Chain Efficiency: An Economic Perspective', the GSF argues that greater competition oversight and a new "commercial contract" covering services and mutual liner and shipper needs is needed to deal with the consolidation of the box shipping industry, reported Lloyd's Loading List.
"It has been clear for some time that the existing business model isn't working for either carriers or their customers," GSF secretary general Chris Welsh was quoted as saying. 
"There is a widening gulf between customers' expectations and quality of service, as carriers focus almost exclusively on operational arrangements and alliance structures. We urgently need a new 'commercial contract' where the needs and incentives between shippers and carriers are better aligned."
The GSF paper said that the prospect of six to ten major carriers controlling the world's main container trades was now "probable" as the pace of consolidation through mergers and acquisitions accelerates, driven by the introduction of mega-ships and the associated development and growth into four - and possibly soon to be three - strategic alliances involving the world's top 16 operators.
This new market structure could, according to the GSF, fall foul of competition laws due to potential competition issues between carriers and their customers, as independent lines were forced out of the market or were driven into smaller niche out of markets. 
The report added: "Should the market become consolidated into six to ten major operators controlling the main trade lanes, GSF believes it would be inevitable that the market share thresholds for alliances and consortia agreements would have to be so low they would be ruled out on competition grounds, with carriers having to compete head-to-head."
The report also questioned whether vessel sharing agreements and alliances were good for competition, as important parameters of competition such as capacity, sailing frequency and ports of call were removed. "Many shippers are questioning whether dealing with fewer fully independent shipping companies could be better than dealing with a larger number of allied shipping companies in alliances," it said.
Mr Welsh said some shippers now felt a degree of vertical integration between shippers and shipping companies was a potential method to increase the alignment of incentives between shippers and shipping lines. "The nature of such integration, and the extent to which it might alleviate the problems felt by shippers, would of course need to be explored," he added.

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