Container shipping continues to be a major means of cargo transportation in 2019. While there does not exist an outright monopoly by any one shipping company, there are presently 10 that control nearly 75 percent of the market, and of those 10, four that maintain over 10 percent of market share.
With 80,000-plus employees and coming off a major reshuffle, APM-Maersk survived one of the biggest layoffs in company history roughly four years ago. A concerted effort has been made since that time to ramp up digitization and optimization changes, with the past two years especially seeing some radical changes. Søren Skou moved into a dual role as CEO of Maersk and CEO of the core Maersk business line, which are two separate entities. APM-Maersk leads the pack with a 4,058,154 shipping capacity (TEU), a 17.8 percent share of the market and sole operation of 316 ships, clearly surpassing No. 2 on the list, Mediterranean Shg Co’s 193.
Mediterranean Shg Co
The world’s second largest line, this Geneva-based company counts on Italian roots with its most important port being housed in Antwerp, Belgium. Also known as MSC, the company made news earlier this year when 291 containers plunged overboard near Borkum, a German island. Worse yet, some containers were hauling poisonous organic peroxides and ended up washing up on to Terschelling, a protected Dutch island in the UNESCO biosphere reserve. Counting on a global presence, MSC is likely not to catch APM-Maersk anytime soon but does have a respectable shipping capacity of 3,303,848 TEU.
The China Ocean Shipping Group Co., commonly known as COSCO, is a state-owned concern widely considered the third largest in the world. Handling a shipping capacity of 2,782,485 TEU, COSCO commands a 12.2 percent market share, and earlier this year the Chinese firm purchased a Peruvian port, its first in South America. The $225 million deal is a strategic play to increase their share in the emerging Latin American market. But COSCO is not solely focused on Latin America as they’ve also been actively purchasing ports in Greece, the Netherlands and various Abu Dhabi terminals throughout the UAE.
CMA CGM Group
Despite global uncertainty and with U.S./China talks escalating to worrying levels, CMA CGM reported their 2018 revenues jumped more than 11 percent and 14.9 percent in the fourth quarter alone. This equated to a record $23.48 billion in revenue which is a record for the French container transportation and shipping company. However, CMA CGM is not resting on its laurels as a $1.2 billion cost-reduction plan is afoot due to geopolitical tensions. On the other end, investments in LNG-enabled vessels have been made to follow the eventual Martine Organization’s rules on emissions, set to come into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
The world’s fifth largest shipping company with a 7.3 percent market share, Hapag-Lloyd has decided to lay low regarding the recent trend of logistics company acquisitions (something increasingly common with the leading players on this list). While most the industry is consolidating, Hapag-Lloyd has made a concerted effort to boost on-time delivery rates. Digitalization lies at the core of this strategy and Hapag-Lloyd has gone full-in to equip their control towers with the latest connections by leveraging disparate data streams in a variety and multiple formats.
ONE (Ocean Network Express)
If there’s one record that the shipping industry respects, it’s the amount of cargo stowed. More cargo stored equates to a higher marginal return. ONE did just that in February, narrowly edging the previous record set by Maersk (19,038 TEU) in August of 2018. The Japanese company successfully carried 19,100 TEU on the MOL Tribute, a vessel with a total capacity of 20,146 TEU. In fact, prior to this record the MOL Trust and MOL Tradition also recorded record stows. ONE operates in conjunction with Hapag-Lloyd and Yang Marine Transport Corp., forming what is known as The Alliance. ONE controls 6.6 percent market share and has been climbing up the ranks as of late.
Evergreen Line is not a line at all, but rather a group composed of Evergreen Marine Corp., Italia Marittima SpA, Evergreen Marine Ltd. and Evergreen Marin (Hong Kong) Ltd. Established in 2007 in response to growing demand for a more global presence on behalf of all four founding members, in 2009 Evergreen Marine (Singapore) Pte Ltd. jumped on board, which now gives the group a 5.2 percent share of the market and a shipping capacity of 1,185,257 TEU. In February, the company welcomed in a new president, Jeffrey Chang, who is rumored to be an out-of-the-box thinker with radical, yet proven ideas.
Yang Ming Marine Transport Corp.
Based out of Keelung, Taiwan, despite a rather recent founding (1972) this group traces its roots back to the Qing Dynasty with shipping links associated with the China Merchants Steam Navigation Co., which later became Yang Ming via a merger. With a fleet of 84 container ships and 17 bulk carriers, Yang Ming controls roughly 2.9 percent of the shipping market with a shipping capacity of 653,996 TEU. Recently, Yang Ming announced the launch of two more 14,000 TEU box-ships alongside plans to deploy 10, 2,800 TEU container vessels coupled with 14 chartered-in 11,000 TEU containerships, all by 2020-22.
When Maersk CEO Søren Skou called for an end to shipping company government subsidies, many carriers, namely Cosco Shipping (Chinese state-run) and Hyundai M.M. remained hush-hush. China and South Korea are keen on maintaining a competitive advantage over the likes of Maersk and Mediterranean Shg. They are right there, but to keep the momentum many advocates of financial benefits and subsidies in China and South Korea see these as mandatory measures to keep the competition lively. Hyundai M.M. joined the G6, the world’s largest shipping alliance, and now counts on 1.9 percent of the market. Not a lot, but still in the Top 10 and climbing. South Korea as a nation wants to see that percentage grow.
PIL (Pacific Int. Line)
Rounding out the Top 10 is PIL, a Singapore-based
company founded by Chang Yun Chung, a Chinese entrepreneur worth approximately
$2.2 billion. When Chung first made a splash, it was back in 1967 with PIL
commandeering just two, second-hand ships. Counting on more than 150 vessels
currently, Chang handed over power to his son, Teo Siong Seng, last year. In
2017, PIL entered into a historic partnership with COSCO, which will enable
both to share vessels during peak demand throughout the year. PIL hopes this
will provide some leverage to move up the ranks into the No. 5 position by
An ever-evolving list, these maritime
companies are responsible for the bulk of delivery over sea. It is nice to see
the variety (nationalities) and cooperation between all ten.