US – A recent report by Sea-Intelligence indicates that Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) is set to increase its lead in fleet size over its competitors.

The shipping giant, which has already surpassed Maersk in terms of fleet size, will continue to grow its fleet size advantage over the next few years, according to Sea-Intelligence’s forecasts.

Sea-Intelligence CEO Alan Murphy explains that the traditional method of forecasting shipping fleet sizes, which combines current fleet size with the size of order books, is too simplistic.

He suggests a more comprehensive approach that considers each shipping line’s fleet adjustment strategy in recent years.

Murphy adds that this perspective involves understanding the carriers’ strategies concerning the second-hand market and their use of chartered vessels. This method provides a more accurate forecast of the anticipated fleet sizes in the future.

“Most carriers adjust their fleets by selling owned tonnage in the second-hand market or reducing chartered vessels when taking delivery of new builds,” Murphy notes.

However, MSC and Ocean Network Express (ONE) have been exceptions, as they continue to acquire additional tonnage.

According to Murphy, under this adjusted projection approach, MSC is expected to significantly widen its size gap compared to CMA CGM by 2026.

CMA CGM will become the second-largest carrier, while Maersk will drop to third place. Murphy also points out that Hapag-Lloyd will need to adjust its approach to avoid being pushed to sixth place, behind ONE.

Red Sea crisis and schedule reliability

The Sea-Intelligence report also highlights the impact of the recent Red Sea crisis on global liner performance.

Although schedule reliability has started to improve as round-Africa routings return to normal and service networks stabilize, it remains below pre-crisis levels.

In March 2024, schedule reliability improved by 1.6 percentage points month-over-month to 54.6%. However, this still reflects a decline of 7.9 percentage points year-over-year.

The average delay for late vessel arrivals decreased slightly by 0.52 days month-over-month to 5.03 days, a minor improvement compared to the pre-crisis figure of November 2024.

Wan Hai emerged as the most reliable carrier in March 2024, with a schedule reliability of 59.7%. Hapag-Lloyd and ZIM followed closely with 56.1% each. Eight other carriers surpassed the 50% mark, while PIL was the least reliable carrier, recording 49.0%.

Eleven of the top 13 carriers showed month-over-month improvements in schedule reliability in March 2024, with Wan Hai making the most significant gain of 11.1 percentage points.

Conversely, CMA CGM experienced the largest decline of 1.8 percentage points. Year-over-year, none of the top 13 carriers saw an increase in schedule reliability, with PIL recording the largest decline of 18.1 percentage points.

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