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SHANGHAI, Sept 19 (Reuters) – Maersk Line’s chief executive has paid visits to Chinese authorities about its planned vessel sharing alliance with a Swiss company – including to the Ministry of Commerce which previously blocked a bigger ship-pooling scheme on competition concerns.
Maersk Line, the world’s biggest container shipping firm and part of Denmark’s A.P. Moller-Maersk, is hoping that its sharing agreement with Mediterranean Shipping Co (MSC) will go smoothly.
The new pact is seen by analysts as having a better chance of gaining China’s blessing as it will give the shippers under 30 percent of capacity on Asia-Europe shipping routes – much less than an earlier agreement that also included France’s CMA CGM.
Maersk has said the new pact does not need approval from the commerce ministry and that the company only needs to file details with China’s transport ministry.
But a Maersk spokeswoman said the company had initiated the meeting and that it was only natural to update the commerce ministry on the plans given its decision to block the other agreement in June.
“We fully understand MOFCOM’s decision which is why we have decided to engage in a traditional (vessel-sharing agreement) with MSC,” she wrote in an e-mailed reply, adding that the pact was similar to many other such arrangements in the industry.
Chief Executive Soren Skou met on Friday with the director-general of commerce ministry’s anti-monopoly bureau, Shang Ming, who said in a July interview with China’s state broadcaster he was worried the new pact could affect China’s import-export firms’ ability to bargain with big shipping firms.
The two discussed the ministry’s decision to block the previous alliance, the new pact and monopoly issues.
Soren also met China’s Vice Minister of Transport, He Jianzhong, on Thursday during which they discussed the Chinese shipping market, a government notice said.
The new service, called 2M, is currently waiting on U.S. regulatory approval. A.P. Moller Maersk’s chief executive on Wednesday called the U.S. approval a formality.
Shipping firms are forming such alliances to reduce costs as the industry emerges from a prolonged slump. CMA CGM in September announced a tie-up with China Shipping Container Lines and United Arab Shipping Company after being left out of 2M. (Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)
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