The P3 alliance is infusing only moderate capacity growth on the Asia-Europe and Asia-North America trade lanes, seemingly more focused on service quality rather than quantity, according to an analysis by maritime research provider Drewry.
Maersk Line, Mediterranean Shipping Co., and CMA CGM have opted for only moderate vessel capacity growth in their new schedules that take effect during the second quarter of 2014.
For the Asia-Northern Europe lane, only a 2.25 percent increase will be offered from the capacity provided at the beginning of September. There will also be one less weekly service, to be compensated by a 14 percent increase in average vessel capacity, up to 13,032 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units), including the deployment of more 18,000-TEU vessels from Maersk.
There will also be one less weekly service between Asia and the Mediterranean, which will probably be compensated by the cascading of 10 larger ultra-large container vessels no longer required between Asia and Northern Europe.
The trans-Pacific adjustments are more complicated to assess, as several end-to-end services are being replaced by innovative new pendulum schedules that sometimes flit between the North American East and West coasts in order to gain economies of scale, said Drewry. There is also one “butterfly” schedule deploying a fleet of thirteen 9,500-TEU ships that crosses the Pacific Pcean twice in two separate services called Jaguar/TP2 and New Orient/TP8.
With this, the Asia-West Coast of North America sling will have a capacity increase of about 5 percent, up to 2.7 million TEUs, and the Asia-East Coast of North America capacity will be increased by around 8 percent, up to 1.6 TEUs from that available at the beginning of September.
When everything is in place in the new Asia-Europe, the trans-Pacific, and the trans-Atlantic schedules, a total of 252 vessels offering a combined capacity of 2.6 million TEUs will be deployed in 28 separate weekly loops, of which Maersk will provide 42 percent, said Drewry.
A key feature of this network, which will entail “no significant change in vessel speed” is that it will be run by an independent vessel operating center, unlike other alliances where loops tend to be operated separately by each member-line.
Maersk Line has said it will be continuing with Daily Maersk from Asia to Northern Europe. If the centralized coordinating office set up by the three carriers functions according to plan, MSC and CMA CGM’s schedule reliability should also improve significantly.
“All of the new east-west schedules remain subject to regulatory approval from trading partners, particularly Europe, the U.S., and China. As the P3’s market share between Asia and Europe will exceed the 30 percent maximum allowed by the EU’s Consortia regulations, nothing can be taken for granted,” Drewry said.
It added that the advantages of the P3 alliance appear to outweigh its disadvantages, including better pricing stability, schedule reliability, frequency, and direct port pair connections. “The danger is that with less to differentiate service quality between the three carriers, price will become the determining factor,” it pointed out.
Photo: Je. T.