One of the key trends over the past ten years in the container shipping market is the consolidation of the supply-side. As can be seen below, a long ‘tail’ of smaller shipping lines have been acquired by leading companies. This has resulted in a very different marketplace.


Previous to these consolidations, market equilibrium almost always favoured the customer. Although the leading shipping lines had large fleets, the medium-sized players were always looking to gain market share. In the market for ships, this was easily achieved, with additional capacity financed by chartering vessels from ship-owning companies. Consequently, the option to increase market share by buying ships and offering lower freight rates was usually attractive. Of course, the problem with this approach was that margins and long-term return on capital fell. Indeed, the latter fell to such levels that many of the smaller shipping companies in deep-sea container trades became non-viable. This made consolidation easier.

It is noticeable that rather than the market leaders, Maersk, MSC or even CMA-CGM’s increasing market share, it was middle-market lines that have been…

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