All change at the shipping alliances

By Paul Kelly in News Posted: 15th, February, 2024

After announcing the end of the 2M alliance Maersk is joining with Hapag-Lloyd to form The Gemini Cooperation, in a move that will shake up the East-West container shipping market.

Since announcing the breakup of its 2M Alliance with MSC in January 2023, Maersk needed a new partner, so the announcement four weeks ago that Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd will create the Gemini Cooperation was probably inevitable and will accelerate the next phase of the alliance landscape.

Hapag-Lloyd will exit THE Alliance and link up with Maersk in February 2025, after the dissolution of the 2M Alliance, to form the Gemini Cooperation, covering seven global trades, including the Europe – Middle East and Indian Subcontinent trades, in addition to the East-West trades.

Operating a combined fleet of 290 vessels (equivalent to 3.4 million TEUs) Gemini’s network will be structured around 12 ‘hub-and-spoke’ terminals in Asia, EMEA, North and South America.

Gemini will offer 26 mainline services and is aiming to achieve schedule reliability in excess of 90%, a level that would differentiate Gemini from other alliances.

This leaves ONE, Yang Ming and HMM in a very vulnerable position, potentially unable to build a network matching those of the Ocean Alliance, MSC and Gemini.

The pressure is then on these three carriers to either lure a new partner out from Ocean Alliance, or re-invent a new service concept. 

But, with the playing field having changed so radically the pressure is also on Ocean Alliance members CMA-CGM, COSCO and Evergreen, who will be asking themselves whether the current alliance setup is still fit for purpose or whether a new partnership might be better.

Additionally, the removal of the EU anti-trust exemption by the end of April 2024 could add to the pressure on Ocean Alliance as they will be significantly larger than the other groupings, and could well become the focus for competition authorities if they have a political need to show action following the exemption removal.

While Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd will be part of the Gemini partnership for three years, after which a 12-month notice period will be required, Alliances tend to have a lifespan of roughly 5-8 years, which means the re-calibration we see now is most likely be the shape of the market on the East-West services into the early 2030s.

If you have any questions or concerns about the Gemini Corporation, or would like to discuss its impact on the shipping alliances, please EMAIL Andy Costara.

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