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CMA CGM bounces back from P3 failure with Ocean Three

CMA CGM bounces back from P3 failure with Ocean Three
CMA CGM, odd man out in the dissolution of P3, has bounced back as the senior partner in the formation of Ocean Three as the fourth major alliance, in another effort to bring stability to the container trades.

The French company has teamed up with China Shipping and United Arab Shipping in an alliance that promises global coverage with 17 weekly schedules operated by 159 vessels with a total slot capacity of 1.5m teu. CMA CGM would supply 45% of the capacity. Ocean Three would have a 20% market share on Asia-Europe and 13% on the transpacific.

Agreements have been signed for the Asia-Europe, Asia-Mediterranean and transpacific trades, while the transatlantic is being worked on. Regulatory approval of the US Federal Maritime Commission will be required, although that agency has previously approved competing alliances. That included P3, a proposal by Maersk Line, Mediterranean Shipping Co and CMA CGM that failed to pass muster with Chinese authorities.

The former two carriers have since gone on together as 2M and are awaiting approvals.

In the Ocean Three network alignment, Port Klang emerges as the principal Asian transhipment hub, serving four Asia-North Europe and four Asia-Mediterranean strings. Calls are also slated for Colombo and Tanjung Pelepas.

Hamburg will serve as the principal gateway in North Europe, with six import calls per week. Three calls a week are scheduled for Rotterdam, and two each in Southampton, Felixstowe, Antwerp, Zeebrugge, Le Havre and Dunkirk. In the Mediterranean, Malta and Port Said will be the principal hubs.

All three carriers have substantial capacity on order, particularly in terms of ultra-sized ships.

Whether the operation of four major alliances will survive as the optimum structure for eventual profitability in the container trades is far from being determined, but at least most major lines have now found a home.

According to Container Trade Statistics, the container trade has settled into a groove of sorts. Traffic is running above last year, but below the level required to fill the capacity coming on stream. Rates have been stable but below profitability for most operators.

Meanwhile an Alphaliner analysis of first half financial reports of 15 carriers, liftings grew by 5.7% in the second quarter and the average operating margin improved from a loss of 1.9% in the first quarter to a profit of 0.7% in the second.      

However, only six carriers made it into the black, led by market leader Maersk Line with a 7.3% margin. Others were Wan Hai Lines, CMA CGM, Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL), Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha (K Line) and Hanjin Shipping.