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P3 alliance port and regulatory machinations

P3 alliance port and regulatory machinations
It has been an interesting few days for container shipping’s planned next big thing: the P3 alliance. Late last week the alliance’s service networks were rather quietly made public via postings on at least one of the member line’s websites.

As expected there were winners and losers among the ports of call and as our sister publication Seatrade Asia Week forecast sometime back newly listed Westports Holding came out the loser among the Southeast Asian hubs with both Maersk Line and Mediterranean Shipping Co (MSC) having affiliated terminal operating companies with stakes in the Port of Tanjung Pelepas and a PSA joint venture terminal in Singapore respectively. By contrast CMA CGM is simply a contracted customer of Westports.

Of course the alliance will call the Malaysian load centre terminal, but the number of calls by the member lines on the Asia – Europe trade will reduce from 10 weekly to six, with a yet undisclosed volume impact.

There is similar scenario for top European ports with Rotterdam losing out in terms of the number of services while Antwerp is set to gain.

However, this is all assuming the alliance ever makes it past all the regulatory hoops it has to jump through in the first place. It was somewhat surprising to learn that since the alliance was announced back in mid-June it is only now starting to put regulatory filings into the relevant competition authorities in the US, Europe and China.

The US Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), back from its enforced “holiday” during the US government shutdown, seemed less than amused that it had yet to get full regulatory filings while the lines had found the time to announce their planned service network to the world.

The FMC’s response was an interesting one. Essentially they said well, the world’s largest container lines want to get together in global alliance, so to discuss the implications of that we would like to get the world’s top competition regulators together to examine its plans.

The proposed Global Regulatory Summit on P3 Alliance would seem to put it under even more scrutiny than its members might have expected. Add in the various concerns of some the countries involved such as the US and the Maersk US-flag fleet and China’s apparent desire to a control at least a significant portion of its own shipping and this could get very interesting indeed.

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