Maersk risking to loose top spot as worldwide carrier after 24 years

Maersk, the world’s largest container line for the past quarter century, could soon lose its top spot on the global liner rankings list to its alliance partner, MSC.

MSC has been very active in recent weeks in the secondhand tonnage market, and is being widely tipped to be on the cusp of a major order for a 23,000 teu class series.

Analysts at Copenhagen-based Sea-Intelligence suggested in a report out on Sunday that MSC might soon overtake Maersk as the world’s largest carrier.

Presently, Maersk is 6% larger than MSC, and with the known orderbooks this will gradually decline to 4%, according to Sea-Intelligence, while Alphaliner data shows that in terms of global market share there is now just a 0.9% difference between the two companies, both part of the 2M alliance.

Market share difference between Maersk and MSC only 0.9%

“In absolute terms, it also means that if MSC goes ahead and orders just a single new series of ultra-large vessels for the Asia-Europe trade, and Maersk continues their current strategy of not ordering more large tonnage, then we will see MSC overtake Maersk on fleet size,” Sea-Intelligence noted.

Maersk top management have repeatedly stressed this year the Danish line is not in the market for newbuilds any time soon.

Sea-Intelligence said that Maersk is pursuing a strategy focused on profitability rather than size.

MSC is world’s second biggest container carrier since 2004

“But ‘losing’ the #1 ranking spot, which the carrier has had for a quarter of a century, would still likely have some emotional impact in Copenhagen,” the analysts observed.
MSC became the world’s second largest carrier in 2004, and since then, it and Maersk have continued to top the global ranking table.

Over the past few weeks MSC has been extremely active adding secondhand tonnage to its fleet, most of which was previously on charter to the line. If all of the deals are confirmed, MSC’s owned fleet will reach 204 ships.
Soren Toft, former Maersk COO, is set to start as CEO at MSC this month.


photo: ArnoudNL /