The US awaits reporting from Maersk and MSC

On paper it looks like a formality for Maersk Line and MSC to secure an approval for 2M, their replacement for the collapsed P3 alliance, but the process and the close monitoring of the alliance will remain unchanged, FMC Chairman Mario Cordero tells ShippingWatch.

The US Federal Maritime Commission, FMC, still awaits a reporting from Maersk Line and Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) about their announced 2M alliance between Asia and Europe. On paper it looks like a formality for the two largest container carriers in the world to secure a US approval for the new collaboration, as the FMC earlier this year - and unlike the Chinese authorities - cleared the far more comprehensive P3 alliance between Maersk Line, MSC and CMA CGM, which in addition to a vessel sharing agreement (VSA) also included a joint network operations center.

But it will not be a mere formality for Maersk Line and MSC and their new 2M alliance, Mario Cordero, Chairman of the US Federal Maritime Commission in Washington, D.C., tells ShippingWatch. He says that the commission has yet to receive a reporting from Maersk Line and MSC, which plan to launch the collaboration in early 2015, and that the only information he has about 2M comes from the media.

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The Chinese authorities rejected the P3 alliance in June, citing China's rules concerning mergers. The FMC subsequently maintained its approval of the collaboration as announced in March of this year.

On the Federal Maritime Commission's website shortly after the Chinese rejection, Mario Cordero said in a statement that alliances aimed at vessel sharing bring a potential for reduced costs as well as benefiting the environment, factors that result from the coordinated use of new and bigger ships. In the evaluation of agreements of this kind, the FMC will continue to weigh the benefits in relation to the potentially harmful effects of concentrating decision makers in relation to port coverage, sailing plans and necessary capacity on the routes.

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"The situation today is that the P3 collaboration will not be realized due to the decision made by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. I understand that we'll likely get 2M, a collaboration between Maersk Line and MSC, but i don't know anything specific about the alliance as we have yet to receive any reporting to the FMC," says Mario Cordero:

"Once that happens, we will perform the same process and scrutiny that we did with P3, which we're obligated to perform."

From an outside perspective, an approval of 2M might look like a formality. Do you agree with this?

"From what I understand and from what I've read, it looks like 2M will purely be a VSA agreement without any of the other components found in the P3 alliance, such as a network center. But I won't characterize a new process as a formality. The FMC will study the agreement  and, like we did with P3, we'll put a series of questions to the parties. If the agreement is approved, we'll ensure that the collaboration is monitored in the same way P3 would have been."

According to Maersk Line and MSC, 2M is a ten-year VSA agreement on the East-west routes between Asia and Europe, the Pacific and the Atlantic. The alliance will cover 185 vessels and operate on 21 services. Maersk Line will contribute 110 ships, corresponding to 55 percent of 2M's combined capacity. The alliance will have an estimated total market share of 35 percent on Asia-Europe.

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