MSC widens the gap to Maersk

The world’s largest liner shipping company MSC is widening the gap to former industry leader Maersk by over 1 million TEU. The new number one is responsible for almost half of the total recent capacity growth in the container fleet.

Overall, the global container fleet grew strongly in 2023. On January 1, 2024, it comprised 5,977 ships with a total capacity of 28.13 million TEU. This corresponds to a net increase of 271 ships and 2.14 million TEU or 8.2% compared to the previous year. [ds_preview]

As figures from the industry service Alphaliner show, the Geneva-based shipping company MSC was the clear leader in terms of fleet expansion. In the last twelve months, MSC has added more than 1 million TEU of capacity. MSC alone even accounted for 47.4% of the total fleet growth in 2023.

Last year, the shipping company delivered fourteen Megamax ships with 24,000 TEU and 26 Neo-Panamax ships in the range of 15,250 to 16,550 TEU. In addition to newbuildings, MSC was able to increase its fleet capacity by an impressive 22% by purchasing ships on the second-hand market. Shortly before the end of the year, the 4,300 TEU Panamax sisters “Rio Cadiz” and “Rio Charleston”, which had previously operated under Maersk charters, joined the fleet as “MSC Basel V” and “MSC Bern V”. This now comprises 783 full container ships.

MSC grows, Maersk shrinks

By contrast, the fleet of the number 2 in container shipping, Maersk, shrank by 112,500 TEU slots, or 2.7%, last year. The Danes thus recorded the largest capacity reduction among the twelve largest shipping companies. MSC replaced Maersk as the world’s largest container shipping company in January 2022, and the gap between the two has widened by 1.12 million TEU in the past year, according to Alphaliner. According to market observers, the market leader’s huge order book of 122 ships with a total of 1.47 million TEU should further consolidate the Aponte shipping company’s position in the coming years.

Maersk, on the other hand, has an almost modest order book with 37 ships and 458,000 TEU. The Danes could even lose their position as number 2 to CMA CGM in a few years’ time. The shipping company had expanded its fleet by 5.5% by 2023 and ordered almost 1.2 million TEU of new ships. Alphaliner recently estimated that the French company could become number 2 in 2026.

Last year, however, there were still no major changes in the ranking of the twelve largest liner shipping companies (with a market share of more than 1%). ONE was able to reclaim sixth place from Evergreen. The ONE fleet grew in 2023. With six new megamax vessels of 24,136 TEU and four vessels of 15,250 TEU, ONE recorded the second largest growth among the top 12. In the longer term, however, Alphaliner expects Evergreen to overtake ONE again. The Taiwanese shipping company’s order book comprises 70 ships with 823,500 TEU. Depending on the fleet plans of Hapag-Lloyd and ONE, Evergreen could even take fifth place in the ranking.

The average growth of shipping companies in the market was 8.2% in 2023. In addition to MSC and ONE, Zim with 16%, Wan Hai with 10.5% and Hapag-Lloyd with 10.2% were above the market average. According to Alphaliner’s observations, this was “clearly due to the shipping companies’ newbuilding programs”.

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Caption: So far, MSC has been a regular customer of Eurogate (here in Bremerhaven)