Maersk and MSC rule out HMM joining 2M alliance

After several months of discussions, Maersk Line and Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) have decided against admitting Korean line Hyundai Merchant Marine (HMM) into their 2M container shipping alliance

Confirming the decision with Lloyd’s Loading List, Maersk Line said: “Since July 2016, 2M has been in discussions with the Korean container shipping line Hyundai Merchant Marine (HMM) on HMM joining the 2M vessel sharing agreement (2M VSA). The parties have discussed the possibility of HMM joining 2M as an operating partner and now decided to look at other cooperation possibilities.

“The parties are therefore discussing the possibility of HMM partnering with the 2M network through a slot exchange and purchase agreement. The partnership discussions are ongoing and include the possibility of Maersk Line taking over charters and operations of vessels currently chartered to HMM with the aim of deploying them in the 2M network. The discussions include how we can improve our products on the Pacific trade.”

Maersk said the discussions remain on-going and declined to comment further, including on the 2M partners’ reasons for rejecting HMM’s admission into the alliance.

Since the start of the talks in July, the container shipping industry has changed significantly with the collapse of HMM’s fellow Korean line Hanjin Shipping, and also the decision by Japan’s three major lines to merge their container businesses.

Although Maersk had initially been linked with the possible acquisition of Hanjin’s assets, this did not take place, although HMM did bid for some of Hanjin’s assets.

There has also been some speculation that Maersk may have been interested in a possible acquisition of HMM assuming a successful working relationship within 2M.

Maersk has acknowledged that the addition of HMM into the 2M alliance would have strengthened its product and position in the transpacific market, where it will have a smaller market share from April that new rival consortia Ocean Alliance and The Alliance.

Based upon carriers’ capacity on 1 June, Alphaliner estimates that the Ocean Alliance will have a market share on the Asia-North America trades of almost 39% in terms of capacity deployed, compared with 29% for The Alliance, and just under 16% for 2M (without HMM). On the Asia-Europe trades, the Ocean Alliance would have a slight capacity advantage, with a 34.5% market share, against 2M’s 33.4%, and 21% for The Alliance, according to Alphaliner.