According to Port Economics, the announcement of the dissolution of the 2M alliance (MSC and Maersk) could trigger “the start of an industry-wide reshaping of existing operating arrangements, especially on major east-west routes.” However, as maritime industry analyst Lars Jensen noted, “the time ahead is not unique at all, but rather one of those points where industry players take stock of their own competitive positioning and realign their own place in the landscape.”
In a joint statement, MSC and Maersk said: “Much has changed since the two companies signed the 10-year agreement in 2015. The disruption of the 2M alliance paves the way for both companies to continue pursuing their individual strategies.”
However, the new route appears to be more complex for Maersk. Simon Heaney, Senior Manager of Container Research at Drewry, said: “The dissolution of the alliance agreement between 2M and MSC in 2025 leaves Maersk in a difficult situation. The Danish mega shipping line is too big to join an existing alliance and too small to do it alone.”
Maersk will not be able to offer the same current coverage when operating independently, as its size is such that competition regulators will likely block any move to join one of the other two alliances, which are contractually committed beyond the completion of 2M in 2025 (Ocean Alliance extends until 2027 and THE Alliance until 2030).
In addition, it seems MSC believes it can make better use of its immense fleet on its own, without the constraint of a partner with different priorities. However, “there is a risk that, since it will have to fill its vessels on its own (despite potential future VSA or space charter arrangements), it will return to its old market share/low-cost model, which could destabilize the market.”
According to Simon Heaney, there is a very remote possibility of a radical reorganization of alliances. “Such an event could lead to a bloodbath in the freight rate market,” he warned.