Maersk Line: 2M could start in China tomorrow

Speculations, in Chinese media in particular, whether 2M will be approved are a waste of energy. Maersk Line tells ShippingWatch that 2M is already registered in China and in theory could start operating tomorrow.
Photo: Maersk Line
Photo: Maersk Line

The new major VSA collaboration between the two largest container carriers in the world, Maersk Line and MSC, already has the paperwork in place for the Chinese market, and in principle the collaboration could start operating in the major Chinese container ports tomorrow, Maersk Line tells ShippingWatch, thus distancing itself from speculations that have surfaced in several European and Chinese media whether 2M would suffer the same fate in China as its predecessor, the P3 alliance.

But the significant difference between the two agreements is that the P3 alliance (Maersk Line, MSC and CMA CGM) was more comprehensive than traditional VSA's aimed at using capacity on each other's vessels, and as such the alliance had to be cleared by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, which ultimately rejected the collaboration before the summer. Following this, Maersk Line and MSC continued talks about a Plan B, leading to the subsequent announcement in early July.

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VSA's must be registered

There are already numerous VSA's - Vessel Sharing Agreements - in place in international container shipping, and in China these agreements are merely registered by the Ministry of Transport. And according to Senior Press Officer Michael Christian Storgaard, Maerk Line, this has already been done, which means that 2M in principle could start operating in China now. However, this will not happen, as the setup still needs to be developed further, and the US Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) - as ShippingWatch reported recently - needs to register the agreement, with up to three 45-day periods where comments can be submitted. But the FMC has yet to hear from 2M, and Michael Christian Storgaard cannot say when the documents will be sent to the commission.

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"But the registration with the Chinese Ministry of Transport has been done in line with other VSA's that are registered before they launch their operations," says Michael Christian Storgaard.

As was the case with the collapsed P3 alliance, the EU's competition authority will not have to approve the collaboration. The starting point here is that collaborations between carriers, and companies in general, can start operating, and the EU will then subsequently monitor developments in the market. 2M will also be registered in several other countries.

No legal entity

According to Maersk Line's Chief Trade and Marketing Officer, Vincent Clerc, who has served as the carrier's chief negotiator both in terms of P3 and now 2M, one key difference between the two collaborations is the legal entity:

"Unlike P3, the new collaboration is a traditional VSA arrangement similar to other alliances, such as G6 and CKYHE. The significant differences are that 2M does not include an independent legal entity, as was the case with P3, but instead merely a small coordinating committee. Furthermore, Maersk Line and MSC's combined market share is significantly lower than P3's. VSA's are generally viewed positively in most jurisdictions due to the significant cost reductions they bring, and the subsequent benefits for customers," he said in relation to the presentation of 2M.

Do Maersk Line and MSC have their own Plan B?

ShippingWatch was able to report on the initial contacts between Maersk Line and MSC already in late June of this year, contacts which resulted in the formation of 2M.

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