MSC currently operates a fleet of 587 container ships with a total transport capacity of 3,892,732 TEU. Meanwhile, Maersk has a fleet of 711 vessels with a cargo capacity of 4,126,740 TEU. Thus, the difference between the two partners of the 2M vessel sharing agreement is only 234,000 TEU. Regardless of past developments and fleet growth, MSC is expected to overtake its Danish competitor, becoming the world's leading shipping line in 2022, because of the opposite stance that the lines have taken regarding the construction of new container ships.
MSC has orders for at least 35 large interoceanic vessels with a combined capacity of almost 660,000 TEUs. Meanwhile, Maersk's current order portfolio only includes 16 intra-regional vessels with 41,674 TEUs.
In addition, MSC's Order Portfolio could continue to grow as several new vessels are expected to join the MSC fleet under long-term charters that have yet to be confirmed.
Meanwhile, Maersk isn't expected to place any major orders anytime soon. The Danish company is said to be satisfied with a fleet of 4 MTEUs and prefers to invest in its logistics activities. Furthermore, Maersk has no intention of commissioning large liner ships before it can switch to non-fossil alternative fuels on a large scale.
It should be noted that MSC and Maersk plan to decarbonize their liner services by 2050. All ships being built for MSC will be equipped with scrubbers and will be delivered by 2025. This means that ships can complete their 25-year commercial life before the zero-carbon deadline.
MSC's path to becoming the leading shipping line has been one of organic growth. Meanwhile, Maersk owes its top spot to the acquisitions of Sea-Land (1999), P&O Nedlloyd (2005), and Hamburg Sud (which added 600,000 TEU to the Maersk fleet in 2017).
However, MSC's growth is not only supported by its new ship-building program, but also by chartering and buying second-hand vessels. The Swiss carrier has been quick to seize the charter market opportunities and has been one of the most active buyers of second-hand container tonnage: since August, MSC has purchased more than 30 vessels with 925 to 8,500 TEUs.