Drewry: Maersk not likely to seek membership in other alliances post-2M

Danish container shipping major Maersk is likely to pursue a development strategy outside of a carrier alliance once its partnership with MSC under 2M ends in 2025.

Illustration; Image credit Maersk

The two liner majors announced the breakup two weeks ago hinting that the move would send shock waves across the container shipping industry and major global alliances.

The parting of ways was predicted as MSC was investing heavily in the buildup of its fleet, outgrowing the alliance and signaling that it would like to pursue an independent path.

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On the other hand, it was unclear what impact would that have on Maersk and whether the Danish heavyweight would seek a place under a different carrier alliance.

According to Drewry, Maersk has for some time been keen to get out of 2M, viewing it as incompatible with the new integrator strategy, as it lacked autonomy on its own network decisions to make progress of the masterplan. 

“2M worked for Maersk in 2015 as the company had many new big ships that it needed help filling, but as the focus has shifted from scale economies towards end-to-end solutions, the company wants to accelerate the strategic vision. To do that, it needs to control its own network and have full ownership of service performance and reliability. It is done with compromises,” Simon Heaney, Senior Manager, Container Research at Drewry, said.

Drewry believes Maersk will not seek membership in an existing alliance, or try to form a new one as the company’s integrator model is expected to be more attractive to customers and deliver higher returns for shareholders.

Developing a core-independent liner backbone will be an essential element of this. 

By making no attempt to replicate the 2M network, it will lose some frequency of sailings, if not actual port coverage, but expects that increased control will give higher reliability and visibility that will create value for customers.

“The chances of Maersk succeeding with its integrator model are better than they were in the past, but it’s a high risk move that will ultimately be judged on whether it delivers value for customers and returns for shareholders at the same time. Messaging to both sets on how they will succeed needs to be crystal clear,” Heaney said.

To make this endavour a success the company will have to integrate multiple, recently acquired logistics businesses, a gargantuan task for any company, and previous similar attempts were largely unsuccessful.

That being said, Maersk has the leverage of digital technology to make things work at this scale.

“If Maersk is right – that being an integrator within an alliance is unworkable – then companies with similar aspirations and in a similar situation, most obviously CMA CGM in the Ocean Alliance, will have to consider a break up of their own,” Drewry said.

“This marks a significant change to the consensus view that the future of container shipping will involve dominating alliances. Instead, it seems increasingly likely that the big-hitters will pursue single life, with the medium size operators remaining together out of necessity.”