A.P. Moller Maersk Faces Market Share Decline as Rivals Gain Ground

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In a shifting landscape within the maritime industry, A.P. Moller Maersk, formerly the world’s largest container ship operator, has experienced a notable decline in its overall market share, yielding ground to other major players. The latest data from Alphaliner, a leading maritime consulting firm, reveals that Maersk now holds an overall capacity share of 15.2% within the global container market. This places the Danish shipping giant in second place, trailing behind the new market leader, MSC.

This trend diverges from the prevailing trajectory observed among most top-10 carriers, which have either maintained or expanded their market shares over the past few years. The collective hold of the top-10 lines on the container market has risen from 81% to 84% over the last five years. However, during the same period, Maersk’s share has experienced a decline from 18.5% to its current 15.2%. In contrast, MSC’s market share has grown from 14.7% to an impressive 19.0%.

Maersk’s decision to cap its fleet growth at 4.3 million twenty-foot equivalent units (Mteu) indicates a strategic choice not to aggressively pursue market share at the expense of other objectives. This commitment to restrained expansion solidifies the current rankings, with projections suggesting that Maersk’s rival, CMA CGM, might surpass its fleet size by 2026.

With an orderbook that represents only 9.8% of its existing 4.1 Mteu capacity, Maersk is positioned with the smallest planned fleet expansion among the top-10 carriers. The bulk of its orderbook consists of 18 methanol megamaxes, which are part of the company’s ongoing fleet renewal initiative, aimed at replacing aging vessels rather than expanding capacity. Maersk initially claimed the top spot through a series of acquisitions, including Sealand, P&O Nedlloyd, and Hamburg Sud. However, the current market offers limited opportunities for large shipping mergers and acquisitions.

These developments mirror Maersk’s strategic shift, launched in 2016, to transform into a global integrator of container logistics. The company’s vision revolves around becoming a comprehensive provider of logistics services, simplifying supply chains and addressing previously underserved needs in the market.

In response to changing market dynamics, Maersk has executed fleet reduction measures, trimming its capacity by 1.4% in 2022 and further reducing its fleet by 2.1% in the first half of 2023 through ship sales and charter terminations. This marked decrease is highlighted by the conclusion of only 36 charters thus far in 2023, compared to the typical annual average of 400-500 pre-pandemic.

While Maersk’s container shipping market share wanes, the company has experienced substantial growth in its logistics, terminal, and towage activities. Since 2018, revenues from logistics have more than doubled, climbing from USD 6.1 billion to USD 14.4 billion. Similarly, terminal and towage revenues have surged from USD 3.7 billion to USD 6.6 billion, indicating diversification efforts in response to changing market dynamics.

Notably, A.P. Moller Maersk is not alone in experiencing a decrease in market share. Japanese carrier ONE has seen its capacity share shrink from 7.1% in 2018 to 6.1%, although it is strategically poised for fleet growth with a USD 20 billion investment plan aimed at adding 150,000 teu of newbuilding capacity annually through 2030. Meanwhile, COSCO Group, encompassing COSCO SHIPPING and OOCL, has seen its market share dip from 12.1% to 10.7% due to its deliberate avoidance of charter and sale and purchase deals during the pandemic.

As the global container shipping industry continues to navigate shifting waters, A.P. Moller Maersk’s strategic choices and evolving market dynamics will shape the trajectory of its future market share and competitive positioning.

Source: Maersk, Alphaliner

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