Battle for title of world’s biggest shipping line heats up

Monday, 21 February 2011 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

MSC overtakes Maersk in capacity, but sister lines give Danish giant the edge

MSC has overtaken Maersk Line to become the world’s biggest shipping line, in terms of vessel capacity.

According to recently published figures by IFW sister publication Containerisation International (CI), MSC’s containerships have a total capacity of 1.84 million teu, while Maersk Line vessels can carry 1.82 million teu.

The figures do not include vessels owned and operated by Maersk’s sister shipping lines, Safmarine and MCC Transport.

Safmarine owns 11 containerships, (with a total capacity of 31,632teu) and charters-in a further 45 (76,379teu), while MCC Transport charters 52 containerships (78,070teu).

If the MCC and Safmarine vessels were included, their capacity being available to Maersk customers, Maersk would operate a fleet with 9% more capacity than MSC’s.

However, Maersk’s lead including its two sister lines is shrinking by the year. Just five months ago the Danish carrier led MSC by 20% in terms of vessel capacity.

Matthew Beddow, Managing Editor of CI, said the battle for the top spot was “a race between two very different beasts”.

He said: “Family-owned MSC thrives best in niche north-south trades and benefits from mercurial management, whereas Maersk Line focuses more on east-west trade lanes and is managed corporately, as well as being more process-driven.  “According to Drewry Shipping Consultants’ Schedule Reliability Insight, Maersk is always one of the best performers, whereas MSC is much further down the ladder.

“How all this translates into profitability is not clear, as Geneva-based MSC’s financial results are not published.

“The [parent] AP Møller-Maersk group’s financial position is, however, much more transparent, and it is consistently a top performer.”

CI data shows that MSC owns 187 vessels, with a total capacity of 873,281teu, and has 241 chartered vessels with a total capacity of 975,159teu.

Maersk Line owns 185 vessels, with a total capacity of 1.03 million teu, and charters 226 vessels with a total capacity of 797,572teu.  According to figures produced by analyst AXS Alphaliner, Maersk today operates 14.5% of the containership fleet, compared with 15% at the beginning of last year, while MSC has lifted its marketshare to 12.6% from 10.9% a year ago.