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Outsiders and alliances in container shipping

HMM recently announced that the carrier will join THE Alliance in April 2020.

This marks the end of HMM’s search for alliance membership after the G6 alliance ceased to exist some 4 years ago. In 1998, HMM became an alliance member for the first time when the carrier joined the New World Alliance (NWA).

In the early 2010s, the NWA teamed up with the Grand Alliance members to create G6. A wave of M&A activity in the liner shipping industry resulted in a new alliance landscape in recent years. HMM found itself outside the alliance structure for the first time since the pioneering years of alliances. HMM made attempts to team up with the 2M alliance.

While some slot charter agreements are in place, it became evident that HMM would not receive full member status of 2M. HMM’s associate status to 2M will end in April. HMM has an impressive orderbook despite the carrier’s somewhat smaller scale compared to the top 5 carriers.

Operating the new range of mega vessels alone did not seem to be an option, hence the announced membership of THE Alliance (other members include Hapag-Lloyd, Ocean Network Express – ONE – and Yang Ming).

The strategic move of HMM comes at a time when the European Commission is evaluating the impact and relevance of alliances in order to determine whether the Consortia Block Exemption Regulation (Commission Regulation 906/2009), which expires on 25 April 2020, should be prolonged and, if so, under which conditions.

(By Theo Notteboom, PortEconomics)

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