ALPHALINER data show that Mediterranean Shipping Co's ( MSC's) orderbook now stands at an eye-watering 1.76 million TEU, equivalent to the total capacity of the fifth-largest ocean carrier, Hapag-Lloyd.
The statistic has left some questioning the future of the 2M Alliance, reports London's The Loadstar.
Alongside its massive newbuilding programme, MSC has been very active on the S&P market, vigorously hoovering-up some 240 second-hand ships since August 2020.
This has taken its fleet to 4.5 million TEU, putting around 200,000 TEU of capacity daylight between it and 2M partner Maersk.
Former Maersk executive, now CEO of MSC, Soren Toft, in his assessment this week of Q3 trading and outlook, warned there would be "some difficult quarters ahead", due to a surge in inflation, interest rates and energy prices.
He added, however, that "there were a lot of reasons to stay positive, and we are developing other solutions, not only air cargo but also on the land side, to expand our service offering further".
The 10-year 2M vessel-sharing agreement between Maersk and MSC is due to expire in 2024. In 2014, MSC was the junior partner, now, when considering the respective orderbooks, with Maersk having just 380,000 TEU of tonnage due, the roles are significantly reversed.
An insider source told The Loadstar meetings between the two operational teams were often "fractious", with "serious disagreements" on capacity issues on a regular basis having to be overruled "at the very top level".
However, last month Maersk CEO Soren Skou was very positive about continuing with MSC as an alliance partner. It's understood that the 2M could be renewed on a rolling 12-month basis at the end of the 10-year period.
Lars Jensen, CEO of Vespucci Maritime, suggests that MSC, with its aggressive growth strategy, could be positioning itself to become a standalone global operator.
"Growing the fleet substantially opens the path to a future where MSC achieves a scale whereby it no longer needs to be a member of an alliance to field a broad and competitive network on the major east-west tradelanes," he said.
"Essentially, it becomes master of its own destiny again," added the analyst.
Need a China Shipping Agent to help you consolidate and ship internationally from China?