A wave of consolidation is sweeping through the liner shipping industry – as illustrated when one compares the figures from 2013 with those of the current business year. By the end of 2017, only 12 of the world’s 20 largest liner shipping companies will still be in existence. Apart from the bankruptcy of Hanjin in 2016, which caused what in 2013 was the world’s seventh-largest container shipper to disappear from the market, the decline in figures is the result of mergers and acquisitions.
Maersk was able to further extend its lead in the industry through the takeover of Hamburg Süd. This means that the Danish shipping company’s capacity increased from 2.5 million TEU in the year 2013 to 3.7 million TEU in 2017. Whereas MSC was able to defend its second place in the world rankings without resorting to any M&A activities (increasing from 2.3m to 2.8m TEU), the recent wave of consolidations has caused a considerable shake-up in the standings. As a result, CMA CGM was only able to secure its third place by merging with APL (current capacity: 2.1m TEU).
The new consortium Hapag-Lloyd / CSAV / UASC (1.6m TEU) as well as Cosco Shipping (which acquired China Shipping; 1.5m TEU) and the Japanese triple joint venture of Mol / “K” Line / NYK (1.4m TEU) means that five of the top six places are now held by shipping companies that have merged since 2013. Despite having increased its capacity from 0.8 to 1 million TEU, the “lone wolf” Evergreen has slipped down to seventh place in the container line rankings.
It is important not to overlook the fact that although there are now fewer liner shipping companies on the market, total capacity has increased from 14.8 million TEU in 2013 to the current level of 16.5 million TEU – despite Hanjin’s insolvency. This marks a rise of well over 15 percent, which ultimately has a positive impact on the availability of containers on the main transport routes most in demand.
Size matters: the number of liner shipping business is dropping – and yet the companies and their capacities are growing. Together, the world’s most important players now offer more TEU than they did just a few years ago