Ocean alliance partnership

Ocean Alliance Extends Partnership to 2032, Quashing ‘Defector’ Rumors

The Ocean Alliance east-west liner services vessel-sharing agreement between CMA CGM, Cosco, OOCL and Evergreen, has been extended until 31 March 2032.

The announcement ended weeks of industry chatter that one of the partners would “jump ship” to join the THE Alliance after Hapag-Lloyd leaves next year.

Ocean line CEOs signed a memorandum of understanding in Shanghai today, designed to end speculation of a new ‘alliance merry-go-round’ which followed last month’s shock announcement by Hapag-Lloyd of its resignation from THEA to team up with Maersk in the new Gemini Cooperation next February.

The carrier partners said that, “with the confirmation of at least five years’ cooperation extension”, they “would like to deliver a clear and positive signal” to their customers.

CMA CGM chairman and CEO Rodolphe Saadé added: “The decision forges our commitment to meet our customers’ needs and build even more secure, reliable and sustainable supply chains. Our diversity is our strength, together we will continue to pioneer our industry.”

Coincidentally, Drewry chose today for a webinar on post-Gemini liner alliances, which no doubt included some last-minute changes to the script to reflect the Ocean Alliance announcement.

Hosted by liner industry veterans Drewry MD Tim Power and senior associate Tony Mason, the webinar looked at the make-up of the new alliance structures, and particularly at the options for the remaining partners of THEA now the Ocean Alliance door has closed.

Drewry said that, apart from on the transatlantic, the Ocean Alliance would have by far the greatest number of east-west trade loops, with 40 across its network, followed by Gemini with 21, THEA with 19 and MSC with 15.

“MSC has the greatest reduction in the number of loops, although this is mitigated by the independent loops it has already launched outside the 2M.” it added.

And, as a result of Maersk’s departure from the 2M next year, Drewry said that in its new Gemini VSA with Hapag-Lloyd, where the German carrier is the junior partner, the number of loops marketed by Maersk would be reduced.

Mr Power discussed the merits and potential obstacles of the ‘hub & spoke’ operation central to the Gemini partners’ VSA strategy, and argued that its “robustness” would be a critical factor in the success or failure of the concept. he said: “If they don’t get it right, they will be in trouble.”

And he added: “Managing the network to ensure reliability, managing the terminals with very high port call sizes, big exchanges and a lot of pressure on yard management is going to be very challenging on a day-to-day operational basis.”

As for the options next year for the remaining THEA partners ONE, Yang Ming and HMM, Mr Mason speculated that they might be considering that persuading an Ocean Alliance carrier to join THEA had now been ruled out.

In terms of attracting a new partner, niche carrier Wan Hai appears to be in pole position, particularly as the Taiwanese line is already cooperating with THEA members on the transpacific. And Israeli carrier Zim, which has a cooperation with the 2M partners between Asia and the US east coast and is also cooperating with MSC on other services, may also be a contender.

However, perhaps the most speculative option for the THEA members put forward by Mr Mason was for the VSA to agree a form of slot cooperation with MSC.


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