MSC widens the container shipping market lead over Maersk in 2023

Container Shipping Industry Faces First Negative Operating Margins Since 2018

The latest data reveals that MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company) has strengthened its position as the world’s largest container carrier, widening the gap to second-ranked Maersk by 1.1 million twenty-foot equivalent units (Mteu) in 2023. As of January 1, 2024, the global cellular container fleet boasted 5,977 ships, with a total capacity of 28.13 Mteu, showcasing a significant year-on-year net increase of 271 ships and 2.14 Mteu, representing an 8.2% growth, according to sources.

MSC spearheaded the fleet expansion, contributing over 1 Mteu of capacity in the past twelve months. Remarkably, MSC alone accounted for 47.4% of the total fleet growth in 2023. The company, owned by the Aponte family, received fourteen megamax ships (24,000 teu) and 26 neo-panamax vessels (15,250 to 16,550 teu) last year. The deployment of neo-panamax ships in key East-West services, such as the ‘Dragon’ and ‘Santana’ loops, further solidified MSC’s dominance.

Additionally, MSC achieved a remarkable 22% fleet capacity growth by acquiring secondhand ships. The recent addition of the panamax vessels RIO CADIZ and RIO CHARLESTON, formerly chartered to Maersk, brought MSC’s fleet to 783 cellular ships by the end of the year.

In contrast, Maersk experienced a significant reduction in fleet capacity, shrinking by 112,500 teu slots (-2.7%). This reduction is the most substantial among the top-twelve carriers, each controlling at least 1% of the global container fleet.

MSC surpassed Maersk as the world’s largest container carrier in January 2022, and the gap between the two has widened by 1.12 Mteu over the past year. MSC’s future dominance is further solidified by its substantial order book of 122 ships, equivalent to another 1.47 Mteu.

Looking ahead, CMA CGM emerges as a potential contender for the second position, with a fleet growth of 5.5% in 2023 and an order book of almost 1.2 Mteu. With Maersk’s modest order book of 37 ships and 458,000 teu, it risks losing its second position to CMA CGM in the coming years.

In a minor shift among the top-12 carriers, Ocean Network Express (ONE) regained rank six from Evergreen in 2023. ONE’s fleet growth of 272,500 teu (+17.8%) was the second-largest among the top-12 container lines.

Several other carriers, including ZIM (+16%), Wan Hai (10.5%), and Hapag-Lloyd (+10.2%), outpaced the market average growth of 8.2%, propelled by ambitious newbuilding programs. Notably, ZIM’s rapid growth positions the Israeli carrier to potentially overtake Yang Ming and secure the ninth position in Alphaliner’s global carrier ranking.

Source: Alphaliner

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