Maersk and Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) have agreed to terminate, effective in January 2025, the present 2M alliance. According to Drewry, it is Maersk in particular that will be left ‘in a tight spot’ when the cooperation ends.

2M is a container shipping line vessel sharing agreement (VSA). It was introduced in 2015 by Maersk and MSC with the aim of ensuring competitive and cost-efficient operations on the Asia-Europe, transatlantic and transpacific trades.

‘MSC and Maersk recognise that much has changed since the two companies signed the ten-year agreement in 2015. Discontinuing the 2M alliance paves the way for both companies to continue to pursue their individual strategies,’ say CEO Vincent Clerc of Maersk, and MSC CEO Soren Toft in a joint statement. ‘We have very much appreciated the partnership and look forward to a continued strong collaboration throughout the remainder of the agreement period. We remain fully committed to delivering on the 2M alliance’s services to customers of MSC and Maersk.’

The announcement has no immediate impact on the services on the 2M trades. Each company’s customer teams will communicate with their respective clients to support during, and beyond, the phase-out of the 2M alliance.

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Too big and too small

According to Drewry, the end of the 2M Alliance leaves Maersk ‘too big to join an existing alliance and too small to go it alone’, while MSC has been ramping up its fleet and seems better equipped to continue alone.

Without the alliance, Drewry expects Maersk will not be able to offer the same liner coverage. While the consultancy thinks ‘a radical shake-up of the alliances’ is definitely on the table, it could lead to ‘carnage in the freight rates market as new members court shippers over to their new teams’. Other options Drewry sees for Maersk are ‘ad hoc vessel sharing and slot-swap agreements’ or quickly ramping up the fleet ‘via S&P and the charter market’.

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