CMA Shipping 2023: Liner Shipping’s Commercial and Data-Driven Future

By Barry Parker (gCaptain).

On Day 3 of the Connecticut Maritime Association’s well-attended Shipping 2023 conference, the Liner Shipping panel consisted of a group of experts on both the commercial and technical aspects of the business. During the discussion, questions came up regarding the future of alliances between carriers, which was not surprising given the recent breakup of the 2M Alliance (Maersk and MSC) and the unraveling of the TradeLens effort (Maersk and IBM) to build an industry-wide blockchain platform for liner shipping.

PJ McGrath, a panel member and Northeast sales representative for Hapag-Lloyd, had strong views on how the business might move forward. In one set of panel banter, he hypothesized on whether cargo owners might be willing to offer a premium for more reliable service, which statistically runs in the 70% – 80% range, in a manner analogous to how a handful of carriers are allowing the shippers to pay for guaranteed space on a vessel. When the subject turned to alliances and vessel sharing agreements, he said: “you are seeing some cracks in that model today… there have been some hints and rumblings that the U.S. might take a look at doing away with alliances.”

He did not want to predict the legalities in either the U.S. or the E.U., but said: “I do think that the way that the alliance structure looks will be different in five or ten years than it looks today… and that those changes will allow certain lines to put in more reliable services, at a premium.” He suggested that many cargo owners might continue with the conventional model, but some (presumably those moving higher value cargo), would pay for expedited services, albeit in smaller ships (and therefore, likely, outside the alliance umbrella).