2M Tie up

Maersk and Mediterranean Shipping Co should know by October 11 whether their collaboration will be allowed to go ahead in the US trades after filing with the Federal Maritime Commission Wednesday afternoon local time.

The Washington agency now has 45 days in which to review the Maersk/MSC vessel-sharing agreement, popularly known as 2M, although the clock can be stopped if commissioners or FMC staff want additional information.

Defunct P3 Aggrement

This happened in the case of the now defunct P3 agreement, which was eventually cleared by the FMC before being overruled by China.

The new agreement is a standard VSA, unlike the more ambitious and tightknit P3, and with a smaller market share without the inclusion of French line CMA CGM.

Maersk and MSC hope to begin joint operations in the east-west trades early next year.

US Shipping Act of ’84

The US, where ocean carriers are subject to the requirements of the Shipping Act of 1984 administered by the FMC, is the only jurisdiction in which 2M needs to receive explicit approval, Maersk and MSC say.

The European Commission and China’s Ministry of Transport will be notified, but do not have to give official clearance before the VSA can begin.

Shipping Ports

The document submitted to the FMC, signed by Maersk’s Vincent Clerc and MSC’s Diego Aponte, covers the trades between ports in the northern Europe-Gibraltar range, plus the Mediterranean, to the US Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coasts, along with ports in Mexico, Canada, Panama, the Bahamas, and Asia to the US.

Although 2M will also cover the Asia-Europe trades, these do not form part of the FMC filing since they are not subject to FMC requirements.

Within the US trades, the 2M parties will be authorised to discuss and agree the size, number and operational characteristics of vessels to be operated, and the number of vessels that each line will contribute.

Shipping Amounts and Container Weights

Initially, they plan to operate approximately 97 ships in the US trades with nominal capacities ranging from 4,000 teu to around 13,000 teu.

However, the agreement allows for fleet deployment in the US trades to increase to 130 ships, each with capacity up to 19,200 teu.

No ships of this size are yet in service anywhere, with Maersk’s 18,270 teu Triple-Es the largest at the moment, although MSC is ordering vessels of around 19,000 teu through long-term lease agreements.

The biggest ships in the US trades at the moment are 14,000 teu, but these only call on the US west coast.

Discussions & Agreements

The agreement says are the two lines should be authorised to discuss and agree on such service aspects as the port calls and rotation, itineraries, and service speed.

However, they will negotiate independently, and enter into separate individual contracts, with marine terminal operators, stevedores, and tug operators.

The filed agreement also makes it clear that Maersk and MSC will retain separate identities and independent sales, pricing and marketing functions.

“This agreement does not create and shall not be construed as creating any legal entity or joint liability under the law of any jurisdiction,” the agreement states.

However, a joint co-ordination committee will be set up to oversee day-to-day matters concerning the VSA.

The agreement is due to last for at least 10 years, with a two-year notice period.