- A new day dawned on the world of ocean shipping this weekend as the industry's major carriers officially reorganized into three major alliances — THE Alliance, the Ocean Alliance and the 2M+H Strategic Cooperation — offering new services to their clients.
- Now, 69% of container capacity will be carried by a member of these three alliances, per Alphaliner data. If the pending acquisitions are cleared, this figure would rise to 74.4%. Together, the three alliances launched more than 70 new services.
- The services pledge to provide better service to clients, but shippers remain wary. The Loadstar reports shippers have contingency plans in case of delays, are looking at rail alternatives, and feel contract negotiations on new services have been far from smooth.
It is not the first time the maritime industry has reshuffled their services, and previous experience suggests shippers are right to be worried.
The new alliances will affect shippers through more than one way: contracts and rates must be readjusted as ports of call, vessels and slot arrangements shift as well. Each shift provides an opportunity for something to go wrong (or 420 distinct opportunities, per a JOC.com count of vessel sharing agreements affected), and while carriers have likely done their best to ensure the transition is smooth, shippers know to plan for the worst.
Ports may provide the best example of the various ways supply chains may be affected. A CargoSmart analysis of the new services found U.S. ports will generally see 17% fewer ships but 5% greater capacity thanks to the restructuring. In other words, larger ships will be calling more frequently, which means ports must adjust berth times, etc., to accommodate new volumes. Ports have been steadily adjusting, but a sudden shift in vessel types and times from all parties may lead to unexpected consequences on schedules.
Meanwhile, a few alliances still remain in flux in terms of capacity as acquisitions have yet to be settled. Various sources report some carriers were still contracting on old alliance terms for after April 1. With acquisitions still pending clearance, new acquisition rumors continuing to float around the industry and ports adjusting to services, bets are services will still see changes in the near future.