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An MSC containership passes a Maersk containership

File Photo: Denys Yelmanov / Shutterstock.com

MSC Widens Capacity Gap, Solidifying Position as the World’s Largest Shipping Line

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 3589
January 3, 2024

MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company solidified its position as the world’s largest shipping line in 2023 with the addition of more than 1 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent containers), according to new numbers released by Alphaliner.

MSC overtook Maersk to become the world’s largest shipping line in early 2022. Since then, the Geneva-based company’s industry-leading fleet expansion has played a key role in widening the gap over second-place Maersk, which actually experienced a fleet reduction of 112,500 TEUs in 2023, representing reduction of 2.7%, Alphaliner numbers show.

MSC on the other hand added just over 1 million TEUs of capacity over the last twelve months thanks to the delivery of fourteen 24,000-TEU “megamax” ships, as well as twenty-six neo-panamax ships ranging in capacity from 15,250-16,550 TEU and the addition of secondhand ships.

This expansion allowed MSC to increase its lead in the capacity rankings over Maersk by 1.12 million TEUs over the past year. By the end of 2023, MSC’s fleet consisted of 783 cellular ships representing 5.6 million TEUs, representing an impressive growth of 22% which will only continue with 122 ships still on order, representing 1.47 million TEUs, according to Alphaliner.

Notably, MSC and Maersk in January 2023 announced plans to end their vessel sharing alliance, known as 2M, starting from January 2025. While MSC is rapidly expanding its fleet size, Maersk is embarked on an integrator strategy and since 2021 has has had a policy of only ordering new vessels that can operate on green fuels.

A chart of the world's largest shipping lines in 2023
Chart courtesy Alphaliner

To put MSC’s growth in perspective, its the overall fleet expansion accounted for 47.4% of the total fleet growth in 2023, according to Alphaliner.

As of January 1, 2024, the cellular container fleet comprised 5,977 ships with a total capacity of 28.13 million TEUs representing a year-on-year net increase of 271 ships and 2.14 million TEUs, or 8.2%, Alphaliner numbers show.

While Maersk’s fleet-size shrunk, the world’s third-largest shipping line CMA CGM expanded its fleet by 5.5% in 2023. CMA CGM is now poised to overtake Maersk as the global number two shipping line with almost 1.2 million TEUs of new capacity on order.

Also in 2023, Ocean Network Express (ONE) regained its ranking as the sixth-largest shipping line, surpassing Evergreen. ONE’s fleet growth of 272,500 TEU was the second largest behind MSC, while Evergreen faced a fleet reduction of 1%. However, Evergreen’s large order book could potentially help it overtake ONE again.

Additionally, ZIM, Wan Hai, and Hapag-Lloyd all saw faster fleet growth in 2023 due to their newbuilding programs, with ZIM potentially in position to overtake Yang Ming in the rankings list in the future.

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