THE Alliance Adapts to Maritime Shifts with Hapag-Lloyd’s Exit and Gemini Cooperation Emergence

Container Shipping Industry Faces Transformation as Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd Forge a New Era in Quality-Focused Collaboration

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Ocean Network Express (ONE) has released a formal statement affirming the commitment of THE Alliance partners to their ongoing collaboration throughout the upcoming year. This declaration follows Hapag-Lloyd’s decision to resign from THE Alliance, expressing its intention to join Maersk in the Gemini Cooperation.

The commitment outlined in THEA carrier’s statement ensures the continuation of services for the next year. Hapag Lloyd, HMM, Yang Ming, and ONE jointly stated, “We wish to emphasize our unwavering commitment to maintaining a robust cooperation throughout 2024, ensuring that the highest standards of cooperation and exceptional service are delivered to our stakeholders and the industry at large.”

The departure of Hapag-Lloyd from THEA raises questions beyond mere capacity reshuffling. Analysts, including Peter Sand, Chief Analyst at Xenata, ponder whether the carriers’ emphasis on quality and reliability will yield the premium they seek from shippers.

The container shipping industry has undergone significant transformations over the last four years, driven by climate action, technological advancements, and the global pandemic. These factors have compelled carriers to offer greener services, and the resulting profits have provided them with the means to evolve into integrated supply chain operations.

The emergence of the Gemini Cooperation, spearheaded by Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd, signals a potential shift in the industry. Alphaliner’s analysis highlights the innovative nature of Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd’s hub-and-spoke network approach, aimed at achieving excellent reliability by minimizing potential causes for delays.

While Hapag-Lloyd is the largest carrier by capacity in THEA, ONE contributes the most significant share at 38.7%, followed by Hapag-Lloyd at 26.2%, and Yang Ming and HMM evenly split at 35.1%. The Atlantic poses a challenge for THEA, as HMM does not operate there, and Yang Ming is only a slot charterer.

Options for THEA include reducing the number of weekly loops or inviting Taiwan carrier Wan Hai to join the alliance, potentially replacing a portion of Hapag-Lloyd’s capacity. Meanwhile, ONE, HMM, and Yang Ming have significant newbuildings on order, including vessels powered by alternative fuels.

Hapag-Lloyd, in its pursuit of the Gemini Cooperation network, emphasizes improved services and differentiation in the market. However, opinions on the move diverge, with independent shippers favoring the strategy while some freight forwarders express reservations.

The evolving landscape in container shipping prompts questions about whether customers are willing to pay for enhanced services. Industry experts suggest that focusing on customer-centric strategies, such as on-time deliveries, product availability, and customer satisfaction, could be the key to enduring and predictable contracted business.

As carriers embark on this new era, the resilience of their services and the ability to withstand disruptions will play a crucial role. The shift towards a more quality-focused approach may redefine success in the industry, challenging carriers to deliver on promises of reliability, predictability, and stability in real-time scenarios.

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