Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd have announced the signing of a long-term operational collaboration known as the Gemini Cooperation, scheduled to commence in February 2025.
Last year, Maersk, the operator of the world’s second-largest container ship fleet and Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) the largest container line globally, announced their decision to terminate the 2M alliance, starting in January 2025. Hapag-Lloyd, operating the world’s fifth-largest fleet, is set to depart from THE Alliance, where it holds the position of the largest member.
The new collaboration, announced last week, aims to create a global network characterised by enhanced schedule reliability, an expansive worldwide network featuring competitive transit times, and a minimised carbon footprint.
Partnership Built on Shared Aspirations
The partnership involves merging the fleets of both companies, establishing a fleet of approximately 290 vessels with a collective capacity of 3.4 million containers (TEU). Maersk will contribute 60% of these vessels, and the remaining 40% will come from Hapag-Lloyd. The shared aspiration is to achieve schedule reliability exceeding 90% once the network is fully operational, a significant improvement from the current industry average of 60%. Gemini operations will commence in February 2025 and will cover seven major trade lanes, including routes from Asia, the US, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, Europe, and the transatlantic.
The announcement was a surprise turn of events as Maersk had previously expressed disinterest in joining a new vessel-sharing agreement. However, Maersk’s CEO, Vincent Clerc, stated that Hapag-Lloyd is the “ideal partner” for their strategic journey, emphasising the commitment to raising the bar for industry reliability.
As both companies set ambitious decarbonisation targets, with Maersk targeting net-zero by 2040 and Hapag-Lloyd aiming for 2045, the collaboration also focuses on sustainability.
What Does the New Partnership Mean for the Market?
Over this coming year, both Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd state that their focus will be on the shift from their current alliances to the upcoming operational collaboration, ensuring a seamless service to customers in accordance with existing agreements.
Longer term, the introduction of Gemini poses significant ramifications, creating more questions than answers at this juncture. With Maersk’s 14.6% share of global container ship capacity, and Hapag-Lloyd, responsible for 6.9%, both are major players. The Gemini Cooperation will therefore contribute a significant 21.5% share of the market from 2025 onwards.
A notable observation is that Hapag-Lloyd’s choice to part ways with ONE, Yang Ming, and HMM has left the trio in a precarious situation. The remaining members of THE Alliance will contribute only 11.6% to the world’s fleet capacity, therefore, lacking the ability to match the network capabilities comparable to those of the Ocean Alliance, independent MSC, or Gemini. THE Alliance will be left with the challenge of adapting to the new reality or seeking alternative partnerships.
The Ocean Alliance, consisting of CMA CGM (France), Cosco (China), and Evergreen (Taiwan), commands 29.3% of the global fleet. Ocean Alliance members like CMA and Cosco might be contemplating strategies, including potential interest in acquiring remaining THE Alliance carriers.
The unfolding scenario suggests a potential reshaping of alliances in the coming years, prompting carriers to reevaluate their positions in a rapidly evolving landscape for sea freight.