The imbalance of the fleet between the largest and the smallest line operators at its highest level

FRANCE: The imbalance between the size of the fleets of the 10 largest container ships and their smallest competitor has now reached a record level, according to Alphaliner last report published on August 17.

Currently market leader MSc has a fleet of 4.48 million TEUs, compared to 20e rated SM Line’s 93,410 TEUs, a gap of 4.38 million TEUs.

In 2017, when maersk line was the market leader, the gap between the Danish company and the 20e box line was 3.2 million TEUs.

The figures show how much the biggest liners have expanded the size of their fleets as their revenues have soared over the past two years. As of mid-August, the top 10 carriers operated a capacity of 21.8 million TEUs, while the next 20 carriers (ranked 11 to 30) operated 2.5 million TEUs.

Alphaliner said: “Following widespread consolidation at the top of the table – consolidation that has caught the attention of politicians and regulators – there is now a significant gap between the major carriers and the rest of the container industry.”

The number of mainline operators with more than one million TEUs has fallen from six to seven over the past five years, as the three major Japanese carriers, Mitsui OSK Lines, NYK Line and ‘K-line merged their container businesses to form Ocean Network Express (ONE).

Despite the difference in fleet size, Alphaliner has observed that the revenues of carriers offering transpacific services have far exceeded those of liner operators focusing on domestic/regional trade. Matson Navigation listed in the United States and South Korea SM line are the main gainers since 2019 in terms of increased operating profits.

Matson made operating profit of US$1.14 billion in 2021, an all-time high in its history and almost five times higher than 2020, while SM Line, which was in the red in the first two years of its business, recorded an operating profit of US$822 million in 2021, nine times more than in 2020.

SM Line operates 94% of its capacity on the Transpacific, the highest proportion of the top 20 carriers. The results contrast with other small and medium carriers which mainly focus on niche businesses. Profit growth for China’s largest national operator, Zhonggu Logistics, for example, has been modest. Zhonggu’s operating profit of $505.17 million in 2021 was just over double that of 2020.