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International Shipping
HMM denies scrapping 2M vessel sharing agreement with Maersk and MSC
Date:2018-06-29 Readers:
SOUTH KOREA's Hyundai Merchant Marine (HMM) appears to be preparing to exit its 2M vessel sharing arrangement with Maersk Line and MSC when the agreement comes up for renewal on April 1 2020, reports Singapore's Splash 24/7.

HMM inked a deal in March 2017 to collaborate with the world's top two shipping lines, Maersk and MSC, in the 2M agreement. The 2M+H agreement included a series of slot exchanges and slot purchases on east-west trade routes. The length of the cooperation was set for an initial three years with an option to extend if all parties agree.

While on the surface all spokespeople for the three companies contacted by Splash profess to be pleased with the current arrangement, beneath the surface it looks increasingly that HMM will need to attract new partners come April 2020.

"HMM has no issues and is very pleased with this strategic cooperation with 2M," the carrier said.

However, recent decisions by HMM point to a more strained relationship with its European partners.

HMM has exited slot purchase agreements with MSC and Maersk on Atlantic and Australian trades, trade lanes admittedly not covered within the 2M agreement, in favour of other carriers. Moreover, in April HMM re-entered the Asia-Europe trade lane with a new standalone Asia-north Europe Express (AEX) service using ten 4,600 TEU vessels. Previously it had been taking space on the route through its partnership with 2M.

The South Korean carrier then placed a 20 mega box ship order, inked with compatriot yards at the start of this month. The vessels will be deployed on the Asia-Europe trade lane once they are delivered in 2020.

Consultants Drewry said in a report earlier this year that the new ships will be used by HMM as a bargaining chip to extend its relationship with 2M in a couple of years or to leverage full membership of another carrier group such as THE Alliance.

Commenting on HMM's position in relation to 2M, Splash columnist Kris Kosmala said: "HMM has to do something else but the management there is calcified, they have no idea what different really means.

"Let's not forget also that there is probably little ambition among the old guard to try something new on their own. I think they will hang on for longer to the 2M alliance and react only if 2M or specifically Maersk forces them to do something they don't want or their creditors don't want."

All container analysts contacted by Splash on the matter agreed HMM would have to find some alliance agreement come April 2020 since it would be unable to go it alone as a global operator.

"They will have to find some agreement with one of the alliances - just as they had to find an agreement two years ago," said SeaIntelligence Consulting partner Lars Jensen, citing the risk for HMM of having a very limited scope in direct point-point combinations compared to the three alliances.

ClipperMaritime container consultant Neil Dekker argued that HMM's fleet build up could prove attractive to 2M, helping fill gaps in its global network.

"For the moment, the 2M lines are making new operational agreements on the transpacific to share slots and in principle the relationship is strong," Mr Dekker said.

2M operates six weekly Asia-north Europe loops with a total of 68 ships. When all of the orderbook is delivered 2M will have 62 ships of 18,000 TEU and above meaning gaps will have to be filled by smaller ships of 15,000 to 16,000 TEU.

"This may be acceptable but inserting another loop of 23,000 TEU ships will be attractive for the 2M lines to help grow market share without the additional capex," Mr Dekker said, pointing to HMM's recent mega box ship orders.

"The bigger picture is also to expand into other emerging markets including Africa, Latin America, intra-Asia, the Middle East where HMM also has aspirations," he added.

http://www.shippingazette.com/menu.asp?encode=eng

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