Despite my statement in a recent post MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company) has not yet caught up with Maersk as the world's largest container line. However recent news stories state that the gap between the two companies is down to 225,000 TEU and MSC should overtake Maersk later this year.
The two fleets are immense and the numbers quoted are staggering.
Maersk has 709 ships with a capacity of 4,121,964 TEU.
MSC has 588 ships with a capacity of 3,897,000 TEU.
Maersk has 16 ships on order, but they are relatively small "regional" or feeder types, totaling 41,674 TEU. Spokespersons for Maersk have said they are not looking for growth.
MSC on the other hand appears to have at least 35 ships on order totaling 660,000 TEU. There may well be more, ordered by other owners but for charter to MSC.
Since August 2020 MSC has purchased more than 30 "used" ships ranging in size from 925 TEU to 8,500 TEU. They appear to be on a buying spree as demand for ships is at a high point.
Maersk has been more likely to grow by acquiring entire companies, such as Sealand in 1999, P+O Nedlloyd in 2005 and Hamburg Sud in 2017, whereas MSC tends to build or buy up individual ships.
There is no talk of mergers or major sales at the moment, but when one company begins to dominate the market it may encourage others to band together more formally than some of the current alliances. Many of the lines such as ONE, Yang Ming and Evergreen are so associated with one country that it is unlikely they would merge with a line of another nationality. Similarly there would be a lot of resistance to a state owned line such as COSCO attempting a takeover.
MSC therefore is likely to continue to grow with little competition to hold it back.