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New Carrier Alliances Creating a Fear of the Unknown

The recent announcement of the dissolution of Maersk and MSC’s 2M alliance sent shockwaves through the industry and created a cascading effect of new alliances and, thus, the possibility of a new world order in the shipping industry. 

Once the 2M alliance was terminated, Hapag-Lloyd declared it will leave THE alliance to join forces with Maersk in February 2025 to form the new Gemini Alliance. This new game of musical alliances has many shippers finding that they have more questions than answers about their short-and-long-term supply chain needs as they try to get a sense of the market at the Trans-Pacific Maritime conference (TPM). 

“The biggest issue most shippers have expressed is how they fit into the new supply chain puzzle, which has quickly become much harder to solve, especially for all the shippers who typically work directly with carriers,” said Anthony Fullbrook, president of OEC Group’s North American region. “The new alliances combined with dangerous geo-political situations, and continuing environmental problems has created a landscape where all shippers should be working directly with a forwarder who has the capacity to ensure that their supply chains do not fall victim to the upheavals affecting the industry.”

Even the carriers are having a hard time predicting what the future brings for the industry. For example, regarding Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd’s new alliance, both carriers claimed that while the initial agreement is for three years plus a one year extension, they are in this for the long haul. However, the only stated goal both carriers proclaimed was their objective to achieve 90-percent reliability. 

It seems hard to believe that the only stated goal for an alliance that will operate a fleet of 290 vessels with an overall capacity of 3.4 million TEUs serving the major global trade lanes, is to improve reliability. The reality is neither they nor anyone else can fully predict the effect all these factors will have on the industry moving forward. As a result, they are setting expectations as low as possible until they can get a handle on the situation, which experts believe will take a significant amount of time.

 “The recent actions of the carriers have created an absolute fear of the unknown in the industry,” said James Vanderloo, Branch Manager for OEC Group’s Milwaukee office. “Anytime there is an unknown, my advice is to default to common sense and make agreements with known quantities, even if it does cost a little more, until more evidence becomes available. At the end of the day, you’ll know what you are paying for, and you might even get a few extra perks.”

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