The VSA is to be known as 2M and will encompass 185 vessels with a capacity of 2.1m teu deployed on 21 strings.
The announcement of the agreement comes less than four weeks after the proposed P3 alliance between Maersk, MSC and CMA CGM failed when it was rejected by the Chinese authorities. The 10-year VSA involves the two largest carriers from the proposed P3 alliance on the same major east – west trades.
However, Maersk was quick to draw a distinction between the VSA and the previously planned P3 arrangement.
“The 2M VSA differs from the earlier proposed P3 alliance in two important ways: first of all, the combined market share is much smaller. Secondly the cooperation is a pure VSA. There will be no jointly owned independent entity with executional powers,” Maersk said in a statement.
China’s key reasons for rejecting the P3 alliance were that it would have had a 47% market share of the Asia – Europe trade, based on figures from analyst Alphaliner, and that it deemed its London-based network operations centre to be a close association.
Maersk added that the VSA does not include any joint marine operations and that also does not have any commercial tasks or responsibilities. “Each party will continue to have fully independent sales, pricing, marketing, and customer service functions,” it said.
What was described as a “joint coordination committee” will monitor the daily operations of 2M.
Maersk ceo Soren Skou said: “I am very pleased with our agreement with MSC. We share the same ambition to have as efficient and effective operations as possible. We will continue to provide our customers with competitive and reliable container shipping in the East-West trades at attractive prices.
“To do so we have to be innovative and take out cost, while keeping a product that is best in class for our customers in terms of coverage, frequency and reliability. Our agreement with MSC is a step towards achieving all of these objectives in the East-West trades.”
The VSA is expected to start in early 2015 pending regulatory filings and approvals from relevant authorities. In the case of P3 the main approvals were required from authorities in US, EU and China.
Maersk will be contributing around 110 vessels, with 1.2m teu in capacity to the alliance while 75, with 0.9m teu in capacity, will come from MSC.
The 21 strings comprise six from Asia - North Europe; four on the Asia – Mediterranean; four Asia – US West Coast; four Asia – US East Coast; two Asia – US West Coast; three North Europe – US and two from the Mediterranean to the US.
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