- In a recent report, Drewry Shipping Consultants revealed that carrier terminal ownership do not always align with the ports alliances call upon.
- In the market consisting Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, for example, the 2M alliance's port of call choices were not correlated with terminal ownership, while a high correlation existed within the Ocean Alliance and THE Alliance.
- Conflicting interests between alliance members may change ports, terminals or even transhipment hubs of call within networks, according to Drewry. As a result, it cannot be assumed terminals will receive higher volumes from a partner line when a joint venture or alliance is established.
The shipping industry's consolidation into three major alliances, paired with various major acquisitions, led to some concern that ports and terminals would be forced to follow suit as carriers aligned their networks to use mainly sites they had a stake in. But Drewry's report shows the opposite is true, and shipping line's port choices do not fully align with their interests.
Various other factors come into play, of course. Simply, a carrier must consider shipper preferences, port handling capacity and type of material carried, for example. In addition, in deciding on network ports of call, other carriers' interests come into play as well. The example provided by Drewry in Northern Europe shows how even the alliance with the fewest actors, the 2M Alliance, did not align ports of call in the relatively small market.
If this holds true, then fewer alliances will not directly cause increased volumes for some ports over others.
Another explanation could be that the lines' terminal divisions operate independently from the transport divisions, and under different business models. For example, APM Terminals is a subsidiary of A.P. Moller-Maersk just like Maersk Line (although they will soon be under a dedicated logistics umbrella), and Terminal Investment Limited is a subsidiary of MSC. Synergies are possible, but competing internal priorities may further complicate decision making.
The Federal Maritime Commission has long stated the shipping industry's consolidation would not lead to anti-competitive practices, and Drewry's report suggests the same. While highly connected, ports, lines and terminals continue to operate relatively independently — each has enough to worry about, after all.