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MSC tops Maersk to become world's largest container shipping line: Alphaliner

Highlights

MSC takes No. 1 spot as it invests windfall profits in aggressive fleet expansion

CMA CGM retakes third place in global rankings, while Wan Hai enters top 10

Switzerland-based shipping firm MSC has overtaken Denmark's A.P. Moller-Maersk on Jan. 5 to become the world's largest container shipping line, according to shipping intelligence provider Alphaliner.

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MSC moved to the top of the global container carrier rankings on Jan. 5 after taking delivery of several second-hand ships acquired last year, Alphaliner said. MSC now operates 4.284 million twenty-foot equivalent units of capacity, compared to Maersk's 4.282 million TEUs.

"Contrary to most other major ocean carriers, which reached their positions in the top-ten through series of mergers and acquisitions, MSC's rise to the top was entirely organic," Alphaliner said. In addition to taking delivery large newbuilt container ships, MSC rapidly acquired 128 second-hand ships since 2020.

MSC is expected to consolidate its position at the top in 2022 and beyond as begins taking delivery of a further container ship orderbook of 999,808 TEUs, by far the largest of all shipping lines. The company will also complete its first carrier acquisition in the first quarter of 2022, taking a 67% controlling stake in Brazilian regional and cabotage line Log-In Logistica and adding another 15,000 TEUs to its fleet, Alphaliner said.

MSC officially ended Maersk's decades-long rein as the largest container carrier in the world when the 4,992 TEU-capacity Mexico was formally handed over to MSC on Jan. 5 while at a Singapore anchorage. The 2020-built ship, until recently under charter by Maersk but bought by MSC for $50.5 million in June 2021, will leave Singapore on Jan. 6 under the new name MSC Mexico.

But rather than defend its position at the top, Maersk has focused on investing windfall profits from the pandemic-fueled boom in ocean shipping rates in land-based transportation and warehouse expansions. Both MSC and Maersk have about 17% share of the global container shipping market.

The Platts Container Freight Index, a weighted average of Platts' global assessments, was assessed at $7,276/FEU on Jan. 5, an increase of more than six times from $1,182/FEU on Jan. 5, 2020, before the coronavirus outbreak spread across the world and caused a huge shift in consumer spending from services to imported goods.

Other shipping lines also made gains in the global container fleet rankings over the course of 2021. France's CMA CGM retook the third spot from China's COSCO after taking delivery of nine 23,112 TEU capacity LNG-fueled ships in the second quarter. Meanwhile, Taiwan's Wan Hai Lines moved into tenth place as it boosted capacity, pushing Israel-based ZIM down one spot and out of the top ten, Alphaliner said.