Container shipping lines capacity overview Q1 2023


In the competitive world of shipping, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) and ZIM have once again proven themselves as the fastest-growing carriers. According to industry reports, these two top-10 container shipping lines have shown exceptional capacity growth throughout 2022 and have continued their upward trajectory this year as well. We share Alphaliners’ overview:

Capacity Changes Top 10 carriers July 2023 vs Jan 2023 Source: Alphaliner


In the first half of 2023, MSC has outperformed all other top-10 carriers, impressively increasing its nominal fleet capacity by a staggering 560,200 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU), marking a remarkable growth of 12.2%. However, ZIM managed to outshine even MSC in percentage growth, with an astounding 13.3% increase in its fleet capacity. This is particularly noteworthy considering the challenging and difficult market conditions faced by liner operators, with the total cellular fleet experiencing a modest growth rate of just 3.5% during the same period.

Alphaliner’s latest rankings continue to place MSC and ZIM at the top, affirming their position as industry leaders. However, the fleet evolution of these carriers reveals a clear contrast in their approaches to growth. While MSC has aggressively expanded its fleet through strategic acquisitions and new deliveries, ZIM’s growth has been significantly influenced by its chartering activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, with many newbuildings entering service in 2023-2024.

Maersk, one of the leading carriers, took a different path. After reducing its fleet capacity by 1.4% in 2022, the Danish carrier continued to offload ships and end charters in the first half of 2023, leading to a further reduction of 2.1% in its capacity. Surprisingly, several former Maersk vessels will now find a new home in the MSC fleet, solidifying the latter’s position as a formidable force in the industry.

MSC’s recent fleet expansion has been driven by its aggressive activity in the second-hand market since August 2020. Additionally, the carrier’s fast expansion in 2023 is largely attributed to the delivery of nine massive 24,000 TEU megamax vessels and eleven 15,000 TEU neo-panamax ships, totaling an impressive 381,000 TEU in slots. Some of these new vessels have been deployed as extra capacity, enabling MSC to optimize services, reduce vessel speeds, lower bunker costs, and decrease emissions.

The trend of the fastest-growing carriers adding new flagships to their fleets is evident with Ocean Network Express (ONE), a Japanese-owned carrier, also joining the ranks. After maintaining its capacity in 2022, ONE has received a fleet boost with the addition of 24,000 TEU newbuildings, resulting in a 7.5% increase. Its alliance partner, Hapag-Lloyd, is also set to receive a fleet enhancement in the near future.

Looking towards the longer term, CMA CGM and Evergreen, both members of the OCEAN Alliance, have emerged as ambitious carriers with substantial order books representing 35.5% and 50.2% of their current fleets, respectively. With such robust growth projections, CMA CGM could potentially overtake Maersk to become the second-largest liner sector player, while Evergreen may surpass Hapag-Lloyd to secure the fifth spot.

Notably, MSC currently holds the highest number of new TEU slots under construction, totaling almost 1.5 million TEU, which accounts for an impressive 28.8% of the total order book in the industry. This solidifies MSC’s position as the undisputed leader for many years to come.

On the other hand, ZIM boasts the highest ratio between its order book and current fleet, standing at 50.6%. The carrier chartered additional vessels during the COVID-19 pandemic, and as its newbuildings begin to enter service in 2023-2024, filling these extra slots will present a challenge for the entire shipping sector, particularly for the fastest-growing carriers.

As the shipping industry continues to evolve and navigate its way through various challenges, the dynamics of growth and competition among carriers will remain an area of keen interest for industry observers and stakeholders alike. MSC and ZIM’s continued dominance as the fastest-growing carriers underscores their strategic vision and adaptability in a constantly changing global market.

Sources: Alphaliner, Splash247

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