Alliance changes to benefit shippers

Gemini Cooperation partners Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd plan to deliver massively improved schedule reliability levels of 95% after they launch next year, but they will likely face challenges in attempting to do so.

The Gemini Cooperation partners believe that if they can deliver a 90-95% reliability, they will replace uncertainty with consistency of on-time performance, which will translate as a reduction in inventory costs for shippers and a huge differentiator for the new alliance.

With 12 ‘hub-and-spoke’ terminals located in Asia, EMEA, North and South America, the Gemini Cooperation will clearly have fewer direct port-port combinations to work with.

Ensuring that these terminals can sufficiently manage high port calls, large exchanges and high yard pressures is going to be a significant undertaking, and should the Cooperation not get it right, it may face significant challenges.

With this in mind, maintaining consistently high levels of productivity at key terminals and a reduction in the number of origin and destination ports is critical to avoiding delays and the potential for any interruptions to cascade.

For example, if a vessel experiences a delay at point one it may miss its planned berth window at subsequent points, which means the vessel’s master is then looking to the port or terminal operator to fit them in, without disrupting the berthing time of those ships that arrive on schedule.

As was evidenced during the pandemic, port operations can easily be overwhelmed, especially when volumes surge.

While Gemini’s goal of 90-95% will certainly appeal to many shippers, others may be wary of the hub and spoke framework, which may encourage the OCEAN Alliance members to leverage their size and adapt their network design to offer more direct port-port pairs. For shippers that want to avoid transshipments, such alternative solutions may be faster, more resilient and potentially cheaper.

As a result, OCEAN Alliance will have the greatest number of east-west trade loops, with 40 across its network, followed by Gemini with 21, THEA with 19 and MSC with 15.

After Hapag-Lloyd’s departure to form the Gemini Cooperation with Maersk, the four remaining OCEAN Alliance members – CMA CGM, Cosco Shipping, Evergreen and OOCL – formally agreed the continuation of their alliance until at least 31st March 2032.

If you have any questions or concerns about the alliance changes, or would like to discuss their impact on east-west shipping, please EMAIL Matt Fullard.