P3 Merger cleared

The Federal Maritime Commission has granted regulatory approval for a huge vessel-sharing agreement between the world’s top three container lines, but with stricter monitoring than is usual for a standard alliance.

The Washington agency concluded that the proposed alliance between Maersk, Mediterranean Shipping Co and CMA CGM would not be anti-competitive. The agreement becomes effective Monday.
The five commissioners voted four to one in support of the P3 Network, with only former chairman Richard Lidinsky dissenting.

Maersk Line spokesman Michael Storgaard told sister publication Lloyd’s List the three lines “strongly believed” that they could continue to serve the North American markets with competitive and reliable container shipping services through the P3 partnership.

The decision by the FMC “is a very important step towards overall approval of P3, which is still subject to regulatory review in jurisdictions in Europe and Asia”, he said shortly after the news from Washington.
Lidinsky said he opposed the alliance because, in reality, it was effectively a merger.

“This agreement will allow the controlling carrier the ability, when coupled with existing discussion agreements, to deploy its assets along with those of the other two carriers, to dominate vessel competition and narrow shipper options at US ports,” he claimed.

Lidinsky went on to say that the agreement set a dangerous precedent, with regulatory authorities in the US, Europe, China or elsewhere “hampered in protecting their national maritime interests in direct or cross trades”.