Wednesday, April 20, 2016

CMA CGM - the shakeup begins

CMA CGM has announced the formation of a proposed new alliance with China COSCO, Evergreen and OOCL. The Ocean Alliance, as it will be called, will include some 350 ships on 40 service loops. It will inevitably shakeup a number of established alliances serving Halifax, but it will take time for the full impact to be felt. A lengthy approvals process is needed as regulators in the EU, China and the US among others, will have to rule on the proposal.

Following on the heels of the Port of Halifax's release of 2015 results, which show a large increase in container traffic - largely thanks to CMA CGM's current Columbus loop (another alliance with CSCL and UASC)- one has to wonder what the effect will be on Halifax.
The opening of the upsized Panama Canal this summer may be an almost equally important event, not to mention the acquisition of Maher Terminals in New Jersey by Macquarie, the operators of Halterm.

CMA CGM states that the new Ocean Alliance would cover almost all the major trade lanes, with the exception of South America, namely:
Asia-Red Sea
Asia-Middle East
Asia- North America East Coast

Currently CMA CGM serves Halifax as part of an Asia-North American East Coast route, via the Suez Canal, called the Columbus Loop, using ships that are too large to transit the old Panama Canal. That could change however with the larger canal, when ships could serve east coast North America via a transpacific service. That would put Halifax as the last port of call (instead of the first as it is now with the Suez route) - certainly a disadvantage.

CMA CGM also serves Halifax on a joint transatlantic service with Maersk Line. That weekly service also serves Montreal. I would not expect that service to survive the Ocean Alliance, particularly since OOCL also participates in another alliance that serves the St.Lawrence. Even that long standing service may change as a result .

OOCL currently services Halifax as part of the G6 Alliance with HAPAG-Lloyd and others. That alliance will also be shaken up. It was due to expire at the end of 2016 anyway after CMA CGM acquired one of the partners, APL (American President Line, owned by NOL, Neptune Orient Line).
The other partners in the service are Hyundai Merchant Marine, MOL and NYK.

COSCO (China Ocean Shipping Co) was forced by its Chinese government owners to merge with CSCL (China Shipping Container Line) forming China COSCO. CMA CGM formed the Ocean 3 alliance with CSCL and UASC, and how it will fare with the new alliance remains to be seen. It is that alliance that operates the current Columbus Loop service to Halifax.

Evergreen,  a  Korean Taiwanese* company, is not currently serving Halifax, although it once had an independent service that called in Halifax.
The history of these shipping alliances, if they even survive the regulatory process, is that they have a limited shelf life. They can be hugely disruptive to customers, and are obviously meant to serve the interests of the shipping companies, some of which are on life support.
Mergers and the like are usually more permanent. The Macquarie acquisition of Maher in New Jersey will be an interesting one to watch. Is see Halterm (served by CN) and Maher (served by CP and CSX) as both competitors and as healthy rivals, each challenging the other to provide better service. That sort of competition within a common ownership may or may not lead to good things for Halifax. It will certainly encourage the rail lines to perform if nothing else.

* Footnote: Thanks to those who pointed out that Evergreen is based in Taiwan, not Korea.


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