When will MSC pass Maersk?

The question no longer seems to be whether MSC will overtake Maersk as the largest container line, but when. Danish Sea-Intelligence believes that this moment is not far away.

The agency says that the number 2 on the world ranking list has been very active on the second-hand market in recent weeks and that a new series of 23,000 TEU ships may soon be ordered. Maersk, on the other hand, has been pursuing a policy of not expanding its fleet for some time now, and top executive Soren Skou says he wants to stick to that policy.

Market share

The difference in market share between the 2, based on transport capacity, has shrunk to less than 1 per cent, according to the French firm Alphaliner. The Danes’ fleet has a slot capacity of just over 4 million TEU, accounting for 16.9 per cent of the world fleet. MSC remains just below that limit and accounts for 16 per cent.

According to Sea-Intelligence, Maersk is still 6 per cent larger than the number 2 and, based on current order books, this difference will fall to 4 per cent in the coming period. Incidentally, it is unclear to what extent the 2 are avoiding each other in terms of the number of containers transported and in terms of turnover. The Swiss-based family company MSC never publishes figures on this.

Largest container shipping company

Maersk has been the world’s largest container shipping company for a quarter of a century and has managed to maintain that position mainly through a series of acquisitions. MSC has grown almost entirely under its own steam by steadily expanding its fleet. Incidentally, the companies are working closely together through their 2M alliance.

MSC will soon be headed by former Maersk top executive Soren Toft. At the end of last year, he switched to MSC, but he had to take a year’s “gardening leave” to prevent very recent commercial information from coming to MSC.

This article first appeared in Dutch on Nieuwsblad Transport, a publication of SWZ|Maritime’s publishing partner Promedia.

Author: Mariska Buitendijk

Mariska Buitendijk is one of SWZ|Maritime's journalists as well as the magazine's copy editor.