Maersk Line downplays US concerns about P3 alliance

Vincent Clerc, Chief Trade and Marketing Officer at Maersk Line, sees the pointed statements from the US maritime authorities as a sign that things could finally start moving in relation to getting the P3 collaboration approved by the United States.

While the US maritime authorities point to considerable competitive challenges and problems in relation to the final approval of the till now most extensive collaboration among the world's three largest container carriers Maersk Line, MSC, and CMA CGM, Chief Trade and Marketing Officer at Maersk Line, Vincent Clerc, remains calm.

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Earlier today, Wednesday, ShippingWatch reported that William P. Doyle, member of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) has voiced concerns about the number of ships decreasing from 346 to 255. The Maersk Line officer does not share this concern, and he does not fear that the FMC statements will have any influence on whether the P3 alliance will get off the ground.

"Actually, what the commissioner is saying is quite okay. He has some questions regarding our US-flagged ships, a fact that he'll find will be improved in light of P3 once he gets the right documentation. He has questions concerning the reduced number of ships, which is fair, but that's the whole point of economy of scale, that we have fewer but larger ships in our network. That's how we'll create savings through P3," Vincent Clerc tells ShippingWatch, adding:

"There will be no losses on the total coverage and our US-flagged deployment will actually improve, as we plan to put the flags on some of our fuel efficient ships that are currently not sailing under US flags."

Maersk Line secures own key port in P3 alliance 

Increased coordination will boost the process

Another point of contention for the FMC members deals with certain aspects surrounding the application, and the fact that the three alliance partners have been to aggressive in their assumption that the collaboration would receive final approval.

Vincent Clerc explains that the process has been less than optimal, but that the statements regarding increased cooperation between the involved authorities as a step leading into the next phase of the approval process.

"We didn't expect them to make these statements, but on the other hand, it's not surprising that they chose to present their concerns. But we actually see this as a positive sign, because we've worked with the whole idea, and we'd like to discuss this with them. The approach now presented by FMC, which calls for increased coordination between the various authorities, makes a lot of sense, as it will boost the approval process considerably," says Vincent Clerc.

The US slams the brakes on Maersk alliance

Free competition still in play

At the question about what effect the alliance between the three largest carriers in the world could have on the free competition, another objection raised by the FMC members, Vincent Clerc says:

"They're worried about the size and the price coordination, and that there'll be fewer ships. But when we show them that there's going to be more capacity, and that we've established a firewall between the commercial activities and the operational collaboration, they'll find that their concerns have been considered and taken care of. We believe we have a solid case, but there could be some other aspects in the model that might need slight adjustments, but we'll deal with that when we get to the specific parts."

The Maersk Line officer does not feel that the combined statements today have done anything to slow down the P3 process, and he still expects the collaboration to be approved by the US authorities within the next six months.

"We still haven't heard anything that makes us worry, or anything that's really serious regarding the future of P3. These are all fair statements that we knew we would have to deal with. [...] We see no reason to change the tentative timeline we've set, but if things end up taking a little longer, then we'll have to deal with that," Vincent Clerc tells ShippingWatch.

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