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MSC Tessa, one of the world's largest containerships, under construction at Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding in Shanghai, China. Photo courtesy CSSC.

MSC Tessa, one of the world's largest containerships, under construction at Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding in Shanghai, China. Photo courtesy CSSC

MSC and CMA CGM Out in Front in Box Fleet-Building Race

The Loadstar
Total Views: 3141
May 17, 2023

By Mike Wackett (The Loadstar) –

MSC’s phenomenal growth over the past two years has largely been driven by acquisition of second-hand containerships, while rival CMA CGM is the most aggressive charterer of tonnage.

According to Alphaliner data, MSC has purchased an armada of 306 containerships, with a capacity of 1.2m teu, since August 2020 and, with its newbuild deliveries, will reach a fleet capacity of 5m teu this month, and will shortly thereafter stretch the gap to second-ranked carrier Maersk to more than a million teu.

The carrier jumped from a capacity of 1m teu in 2007 to 2m teu in 2011, to 3m teu in 2017 and to 4m teu in 2021, before usurping the long reign of Maersk as the biggest carrier, in January last year.

And the Aponte family-led shipping line shows no sign of easing up on its aspiration to dominate global tradelanes.

“MSC’s growth ambitions will not stop,” said the consultant, noting that the Geneva-headquartered carrier’s fleet will hit 6m teu by the middle of next year.

It added: “When the 2M vessel-sharing agreement with Maersk is set to expire, MSC will be well positioned to operate a standalone network with a global reach.”

And if MSC continues its strategy of eking out the service life of its elderly ships, its capacity could climb to around 6.75m teu by 2025. However, Alphaliner expects MSC’s operating capacity “to level off around the 6m teu mark”.

“MSC is expected to dispose of numerous ageing ships in the sub-8,000 teu class in the coming years, as it strives to increase fuel efficiency and move along its transition to alternative ‘green’ fuels,” said the consultant.

Meanwhile, containership brokers working on behalf of French carrier CMA CGM are the busiest in the charter market.

“CMA CGM has been by far the most active charterer since the beginning of the year, with around 120 vessel fixtures concluded, including both extensions and new deals,” said Alphaliner.

Indeed, a London-based shipbroker told The Loadstar CMA CGM was expressing interest in all open tonnage, as well as enquiring about forward options.

“It is definitely the most aggressive of the liner companies at the moment, and not afraid to forward-fix for long periods,” said the broker.

Moreover, CMA CGM, with a current fleet of 621 vessels, with a capacity of 3.5m teu, also has a huge orderbook approaching 1m teu. And it is reported to be negotiating with Asian yards for ten more 24,000 teu ships, which could enable the carrier to leapfrog Maersk to take over the second-largest carrier ranking.

“The rumoured orders would see CMA CGM’s newbuilding pipeline jump from 910,000 teu to 1.15m teu, which could potentially see the carrier move past Maersk,” said Alphaliner.

The Loadstar is known at the highest levels of logistics and supply chain management as one of the best sources of influential analysis and commentary.

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