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LONDON: Every service in the container trades from Asia to Europe is now controlled by one of four alliances says Drewry Maritime Research.

The 2M pairing of Maersk/MSC leads with 31 percent of the effective weekly capacity, followed by the CKYHE and G6, both with 24 percent, and finally Ocean Three on 21 percent.

The Drewry definition of "effective" is nominal capacity (the average size of ships per service) minus deductions for deadweight and high-cube limitations and then again for out-of-scope cargoes.

2M Maersk MSCDespite a reduction of ships from 245 to 232 compared to December, the research company notes the available capacity has only dropped one percent to 218,500 TEU per week as a result of using larger vessels.

Collectively the four alliances provide 74 weekly voyages from 10 Mainland China ports every week to North Europe. The 2M carriers lead with 27 departures per week, followed by Ocean Three (18), CKYHE (17) and 12 for the G6.

At the other end, there are now 84 weekly arrivals in North Europe from China and other points in Asia. Rotterdam has the highest number of arrivals at 18 followed by Hamburg on 17. Between them they receive 41 percent of all the calls from Asia. The UK has 19 calls split between Felixstowe (11) and Southampton (8), giving it a second-best 23 percent share of all calls into North Europe.

Drewry says fears of alliance dominance and reduced choice for importers and exporters are misplaced: "For example, there are 14 weekly services from Shanghai to Rotterdam, the two busiest ports in the trade. That means shippers can call upon 16 carriers (not to mention non-alliance slot charterers) to get the most competitive freight rate quotes." And with more ULCVs providing three new weekly services from mid-2015, the research company says shippers will have even more choice and the possibility of lower freight rates.

Drewry says the G6 alliance, with the weakest port coverage and transit times coupled with a lack of big ships, will lose market share and lose ground on slot costs this year: "Being in such an obviously weaker position risks them having to become price-takers in order to fill their assets. It is therefore unsurprising that the likes of MOL and OOCL have been heavily linked with new orders for 20,000 TEU ships. The six lines will hope they have not fallen too far behind by the time those ships are delivered," it adds.

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