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MSC overtakes Maersk in becoming the World’s largest shipping line

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GENEVA : MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company solidified its position as the most extensive shipping line in the world in 2023 with the addition of over one million TEUs (20-foot equivalent containers), per new numbers shared by Alphaliner. MSC overtook Maersk and emerged as the most extensive shipping line in the world at the beginning of 2022. Then onward, the Geneva-based major’s leading fleet expansion has had a vital role in broadening the gap over second-place Maersk, which experienced a fleet reduction of 112,500 TEUs in 2023, representing a reduction of 2.7%, per Alphaliner numbers.

MSC added just over a million TEUs of capacity in the past year, thanks to the successful delivery of 14 24,000-TEU “megamax” vessels, as well as 26 neo-panamax ships ranging in capacity from 15,250 to 16,550 TEUs and the addition of secondhand vessels.

The expansion permitted MSC to enhance the lead over Maersk in capacity rankings by about 1.12 million TEUs over the entire year. By the end of 2023, MSC’s fleet comprised 783 cellular vessels representing 5.6 million TEUs, representing a significant growth of 22%, which will continue with 122 vessels still on order, representing 1.47 million TEUs, per Alphaliner.

Notably, Maersk and MSC in Jan 2023 declared strategies to end the vessel-sharing alliance, 2M, beginning from Jan 2025. While MSC is expanding the company’s fleet size, Maersk has reportedly embarked on an integrator strategy. From 2021, it has maintained a policy of ordering new vessels that can operate on green fuels. To place MSC’s growth in perspective, the overall fleet expansion was estimated to be 47.4% of the total fleet growth recorded in 2023, according to Alphaliner.

As of January 1, the cellular container fleet boasted 5,977 vessels with a capacity of 28.13 million TEUs, marking a year-on-year net increase of 271 ships and 2.14 million TEUs, or 8.2%, Alphaliner numbers show.

While Maersk’s fleet shrunk, the world’s third-largest shipping line, CMA CGM, expanded its current fleet by 5.5% in 2023. CMA CGM is all set to overtake Maersk as the world’s second-top shipping line, with close to 1.2 million TEUs of new capacity on order.

In 2023, Ocean Network Express (popular as ONE) regained its earlier ranking as the sixth-greatest shipping line, surpassing Evergreen. Now, ONE’s fleet growth of 272,500 TEU was the second-largest behind MSC, while Evergreen encountered a fleet reduction of about 1%.

However, Evergreen’s big order book could help overtake ONE again. Besides, ZIM, Hapag-Lloyd, and Wan Hai witnessed faster fleet growth in 2023 owing to the new building programs, with ZIM in the position to overtake Yang Ming in the rankings list soon.

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