And then there were 11. Who will follow Hamburg Süd?

It is no great surprise that hits-wise one story dominated our site this week. My colleague, Grant Rowles, was first to the punch with the official news that Maersk Line had indeed bought out Hamburg Süd, giving the Danish containerline an 18.6% global market share in the liner trades. More than 11,500 of you read that story on our site yesterday and we are gratified that in the ensuing 24 hours a bunch of liner execs have signed up to our daily newsletter.

So then, let’s take a step back and look at what’s likely next in container shipping’s greatest phase of consolidation. With Hanjin Shipping going to the wall, NYK, MOL and K Line joining forces in Japan, Cosco and China Shipping betrothed by Beijing, CMA CGM in for NOL and Hapag-Lloyd joining forces with UASC before yesterday’s Maersk news, we are now at a stage where there are just 11 global carriers, down from 20 at the start of the decade.

Israel’s ZIM, meanwhile, has tapped Citi to hive off its global network in a bid to carry on just as an intra-Mediterranean operator.

This leaves the spotlight on two containerlines: Yang Ming from Taiwan and Hong Kong’s OOCL. Both operate a fleet of around 575,000 teu each – less than half of what our regular contributor, Lars Jensen from SeaIntel Consulting, reckons is necessary to prosper in today’s altered container environment. Both have gone on the record to deny they are looking at sale opportunities. We remain convinced however that for the right price senior management at both lines would sell up … or could they merge? Splash will continue to report all the latest movements in this rapidly changing sector.

Mentioning change, one final thing I recommend you read before heading off for the weekend is today’s contribution from Kate Adamson, the founder of Futurenautics. I caught up with the maritime futurist for breakfast in Singapore earlier this week – her thoughts on how the industry must transform in the coming years made for an illuminating chat over some eggs benedict.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


    1. There are big issues of “company culture” between Evergreen and Yang Ming, and any merger would have a political dimension in terms of the politics of Taiwan.

  1. What I fail to understand is why there is such hue and cry; as this is not new in Liner Shipping. Let us look at the history of Liner Shipping from mid 90’s onwards i.e. in last 20 years:

    1995 – 2000: A well known name CP Ships was on an acquisition spree (Cast, Canmar, Lykes, ANZDL, Ivaran, TMM, CCAL, Italia)
    1996: P&O merged with Nedlloyd to become PONL
    1997: NOL acquires APL but keeps the APL brand name.
    1997: Hanjin acquires DSR-Senator
    1999: Maersk acquires Sealand.
    1999: CSCL makes a foray into international shipping after being a domestic player.
    2000: CSAV acquires Norasia.
    2005: Hapag-Llloyd parent TUI acquires CP Ships.
    2005: Maersk acquires PONL and the P&O name becomes history.
    2000 – 2010: A number of small liner companies notably from Far-east Asia try entering the market and fizzle out. Acquisition of small players such as Cheng Lie, Ellerman, Kein Hung etc continued during this period.
    2011-2012: UASC embarks on a massive expansion plan.
    2013: Hapag Lloyd and CSAV merger with the CSAV brand becoming defunct.
    2016: CMA-CGM acquires APL
    2016: COSCO/CSCL merger
    2016: Hapag Lloyd and UASC combine forces.
    2016: MOL/NYK/K-Line announce merger of liner divisions
    2016: Maersk announces acquisition of Hamburg Sud to be completed by end 2017.

    Not that there have been no liner bankruptcies during this period; we can list following US Lines, BLASCO, CHO YANG and now HANJIN to name a few.

    What is worth noting is during this period the player which has been going from strength to strength without acquisitions or merger is MSC.

    Evergreen being the only other global player which has stood its ground without acquisitions and mergers but has not been growing over the last few years.

    I would contemplate that by the turn of this decade the list could be down to 6 or 7.

    It is too early to forecast but the tide may change after 2020 and like the maritime industry is prone to herd mentality there could be new players looking at the Liner markets once again!!

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