Maersk Line says it will file its 2M vessel sharing agreement with Mediterranean Shipping Co. with China’s Ministry of Transport, not the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM).
“This is a pure VSA, and VSAs of this type are only filed with the MOT; that is what we are seeing. That’s where they get filed, not with MOFCOM ,” said Michael Christian Storgaard, a spokesman for the company.
Last month, China’s Ministry of Commerce turned down plans by Maersk and MSC, together with CMA CGM, to create the P3 Network, a vessel-sharing agreement they had hoped to implement later this year on the transpacific, transatlantic and Asia-Europe trades.
Storgaard noted that the P3 Network, which included a proposal for an independent operations center for vessels in the agreement, was seen by legal consultants as “beyond a boundary where it was prudent to get it with MOCOM as well and get their take on this.”
Storgaard, however, said the assessment of which Chinese authorities must approve the agreement “may change at some point during discussions with legal counsel. … That is currently the assessment, and we follow the experience with P3 and MOFCOM."
He said Maersk believes the new 2M agreement with MSC will create an alliance with about a 30-percent market share in the Asia-Europe trade. He said the company was not disclosing an estimated market share out of China.
In an interview with American Shipper last week, Cai Jia-Xiang, vice president of the China Shippers’ Association
, which opposed the P3, said he believed the combined share of the Maersk and MSC in the China-Europe trade lane would be higher than 30 percent and, therefore, would not be permitted by Chinese regulators.
In the latest edition of its "Container Insight Weekly" newsletter, consultant Drewry said its analysis shows that on the Asia-North Europe trade route, Maersk and MSC "currently have a 32-percent share of all effective westbound vessel capacity, which is more than the 30-percent market share threshold normally allowed under the European Union’s consortium regulation, so will require close scrutiny. Maersk currently provides 21.3 percent on its own, and MSC/CMA CGM provide another 21.2 percent through joint services shared fairly evenly, which would have given the P3 alliance a much bigger share of 42.5 percent. Only six weekly services are planned by 2M instead of nine, but the VSA will still be the trade lane’s largest."
From Asia to the Mediterranean, where the 2M plans four weekly services instead of the five planned by the P3, 2M will have market share of 42.1 percent compared to P3’s 53.8 percent, said Drewry.
The London-based consultant noted that on the transpacific, 2M is planning four strings as compared to the six envisioned by the P3, and three on the transatlantic, as the P3 had planned.
Drewry added, "As 2M will not include joint marine operations, 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. 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, as Drewry 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."