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MSC’s New Megaships Face Longer Transit Times on 2M’s Asia-Europe Route

Last week’s announcement by the 2M Alliance partners that they intend to inject nine additional vessels into their Asia-North Europe and Asia-Mediterranean loops will see the network absorb the 24,000 teu newbuild ULCVs coming to MSC over the summer.

Ahead of the termination of the 2M vessel-sharing alliance, the six Asia-North Europe and two Asia-Mediterranean services mostly feature all Maersk-controlled tonnage or ships operated by MSC.

For example, according to eeSea data, the Maersk AE11 and MSC Jade Asia-Mediterranean loop has 13 active vessels assigned, all supplied by MSC. Conversely, the Maersk AE10 and MSC Silk Asia-North Europe loop is operated by 13 ships provided by the Danish carrier.

Although the 2M partners will still need to discuss operational changes for the loops, the lead line – in terms of which is operating the ship – will in practice have a certain amount of autonomy.

This will include sailing and arrival times and matters under the direction of the line’s cargo superintendent, such as stowage and the shipment of late-running containers.

Indeed, taking questions during its first-quarter earnings call on 4 May, Maersk CEO Vincent Clerc said the disadvantages of the 2M Alliance “now outweighed the advantages”, given Maersk’s aspiration to become a global integrator.

He explained: “What the alliance has given us is scale economics, which is basically the ability to deploy 20,000+ teu ships effectively, but what it has not given is flexibility, because you have the disadvantage of being a 3PL, by having half of your customer promises riding on somebody else’s ship and being at the mercy of the operating decisions they are making.”

According to Alphaliner data, on 30 May the 24,346 teu MSC Michel Cappellini will commence its maiden voyage from Ningbo, on the MSC-operated AE6/Lion Asia-North Europe loop. And, on the same day, the 24,116 teu MSC Gemma is scheduled to join the AE11/Jade Mediterranean service, also operated by MSC-controlled vessels.

The 24,000 teu MSC Nicola Mastro is stemmed to join the AE55/Griffin Asia-North Europe loop on 9 July, while the 24,000 teu MSC Claude Girardet is scheduled to be added to the AE6/Lion fleet on 23 August.

Notwithstanding, the circa 200,000 teu of capacity that will be added to the 2M’s Asia-Europe network with the deployment of the nine extra vessels, by extending voyage transit times, in theory, the weekly capacity offered will remain unchanged – albeit that the phasing-in of bigger ships will increase it slightly.

Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether, in a competitive market, Maersk and MSC’s Asia-Europe rivals will take advantage of the 2M’s extended voyage times to offer shippers with time-sensitive cargo better transit times.



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