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According to Alphaliner the launch of the 2M and Ocean Three (O3) alliances in mid-January will add around 19% extra weekly capacity to the Asia-Mediterranean trade, although between Asia and North Europe the increase on current capacity offered by the members of the two alliances will be the far less ambitious 2%.

Overall, the analyst calculates that the 2M and O3 will add an additional 4% weekly capacity across their east-west networks, but it is the big hike in weekly slots on offer between Asia and the Mediterranean that Alphaliner said “could set the stage for a fresh round of rate reductions as the carriers battle for market share”.

It would seem that both alliances are expecting to see exceptional growth on the route in 2015. Alphaliner’s analysis calculated that the 2M partners Maersk Line and MSC are intending to ramp up their offering of slots to Asia-Mediterranean shippers by 16.4%, whereas the O3 members CMA CGM, CSCL and UASC will hike capacity by a massive 24.2%, compared with their current total individual offerings.

Spot freight rates from Asia to the Mediterranean have hitherto been more robust than to North Europe and prior to a general rate increase spike of Friday the Shanghai Containerized Freight Index recorded Mediterranean rates at $915 per teu, while North European rates were gauged at $719 per teu.

From January the two mega-alliances will control a massive 68% of the total weekly cellular capacity between Asia and Mediterranean ports, leaving 19% for rival alliance CKYHE and just 7% for the G6 alliance carriers, and it seems that the first major battle between the big two alliances will be fought in the Med.

Meanwhile, O3 – which also includes a slot exchange agreement between UASC and German north-south carrier Hamburg Sud – appears to be more judicious in its prediction for Asia-North Europe adding a more modest 7.4% extra weekly capacity, while the 2M will actually marginally decrease its weekly offering by 1.6%.

However, the 2M alliance will still control 32% of the market capacity between Asia and North Europe and would no doubt preferred to have at least maintained the number of slots on offer to their customers were it not for a fear of provoking the ire of the Chinese regulators.

Elsewhere, between Asia and the US West Coast it is the turn of the other two alliances to take the upper hand in weekly capacity, with CKYHE controlling 37% and G6 35% of the market – 2M and O3 will control 13% and 14% respectively of the trade and offer marginally less slots than previously.

Moreover, between Asia and the US East Coast 2M will offer 14% less capacity than previously marketed by the two carriers as three existing loops are merged into two – all now served via the Suez Canal – while O3 will initially provide 3% less of capacity.

In the Asia-US East Coast trade the G6 has the lead with 36% of the market, followed by 32% offered by the CKYHE, 16% by 2M and 12% by Ocean Three.

Given the relatively short space of time that the alliance partners have had to configure their schedules – not least because of the P3 alliance abortion – there is little doubt that the working schedules will need bedding in and adjustments will be likely as alliance market share battles are won and lost.

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