Apparel Sourcing Intelligence - Worldwide

P3 shipping cartel launch looking likely to be delayed

By the first week of January, it began to look as if the launch date for the proposed P3 shipping cartel – which its members call an “alliance”  – would be unlikely in the first half of 2014.

The alliance, of Denmark’s Maersk Line, France’s CMA CGM and Switzerland’s Mediterranean Shipping Co, has drawn concern for its potential near- monopoly from customers, seamen’s unions and trade associations. If approved (and it needs separate approval from the US, EU and Chinese authorities, and possibly others) the P3 would control an estimated 43% of Asia-to-Europe container shipping, 41% of the trans-Atlantic market and about 24% of the trans-Pacific market. Hearings on it coincide with EU and US investigations into the recently announced expansion of the G6 Alliance— comprising APL, Hapag-Lloyd, Hyundai Merchant Marine, MOL, NYK Line and OOCL — into the trans-Atlantic and Asia-U.S West Coast routes, and a separate EU price-fixing probe of container-shipping companies, including Maersk, MSC and CMA CGM, by European and Russian regulators.

Representatives of the US Federal Maritime Commission, the European Union’s Competition Commission and China’s transport ministry met on December 17 to discuss their concerns about P3 – the first time the three have met on such a case –  but spent their time understanding each other’s regulatory systems. The cartel has till late January to respond to the US questions, but thereafter follow-up discussions can take an indeterminate time, China has 5 months to rule on such issues, but its regulators have yet to receive documents from the three operators necessary to start the process.