Leading lines tightened grip on box market in 2017


The world’s top 15 container lines consolidated their global market share during 2017, according to Alphaliner.

The analyst reported that total vessel capacity operated by the top 15 container carriers grew by 12.6% in 2017, while their combined share of the global container ship capacity increased from 78.6% to 85.1%.

The leading 15 carriers grew their operating capacity - including capacity operated by companies that were acquired during the period - from 16.27 million teu on 1 January 2017 to 18.32 million teu at the start of this year, said Alphaliner. Over the same period, total global liner capacity increased by 3.9% from 20.69 million teu to 21.51 million teu.

The biggest winner of 2017 was also the world’s large line, Maersk. The line’s operating capacity grew by 26.8% to reach 4.15 million teu on 1 January 2018, up from 3.27 million teu twelve months earlier.

Alphaliner said Maersk’s recent takeover of German carrier Hamburg Süd contributed significantly to the capacity increase, but even without the deal “Maersk would still have grown organically by some 10%”.

Last year Zim, OOCL, CMA CGM and MOL also all saw operating capacity increases, up 20%, 19.7%, 18% and 17.9% year-on-year, respectively.

However, not all of the top 15 carriers recorded gains. Hyundai Merchant Marine (HMM), for example, saw its operating capacity fall by 23.9% from 456,000 teu in 2017 to 347,000 teu at the beginning of 2018, although, as reported in Lloyd’s Loading Listthe carrier has ambitious plans to expand its fleet in the coming years.

“The reduction was due mainly the withdrawal of numerous HMM ships from the Asia - Europe and Asia - East Coast of North America routes,” said Alphaliner. “The ships were chartered out to Maersk and MSC under a strategic cooperation agreement, known as 2M+HMM, that took effect on 1 April 2017.”

K Line also recorded a 2.7% drop in operating capacity. “It did not receive any new ships last year and the redelivery of five chartered units of 5,600-7,000 teu contributed to the drop in overall tonnage,” said Alphaliner.

The Japanese carrier is due to merge its container business with the box line capacity of fellow Japanese carriers MOL and NYK under the new ‘Ocean Network Express’ (ONE) brand from April 2018. ONE will operate a combined fleet of 1.48m teu, which will be boosted by the deliveries in 2018 of one 20,180 teu unit for MOL, four 14,020 teu units for NYK and five 13,870 teu units from K Line.