In a strategic move set to reshape the maritime industry, Hapag-Lloyd and Maersk have announced the initiation of a groundbreaking operational collar named Gemini Cooperation, effective February 2025.

This long-term collaboration marks a departure from existing partnerships, with Hapag-Lloyd exiting THE Alliance in January 2025 and the conclusion of the 2M alliance between Maersk and MSC.

Throughout the current year, both companies will meticulously plan the transition from their present alliances to the new Gemini Cooperation. Importantly, services to customers will remain uninterrupted, adhering to existing agreements.

Key features of the Gemini Cooperation include a fleet pool boasting approximately 290 vessels with a combined capacity of 3.4 million containers (TEU); Maersk deploying 60%, and Hapag-Lloyd contributing 40% to the joint fleet. The liners have set a target aiming for schedule reliability above 90%. The joint fleet will cover 7 major trading routes: Asia / US West Coast, Asia / US East Coast, Asia / Middle East, Asia / Mediterranean, Asia / North Europe, Middle East – India / Europe and Transatlantic.

In addition to this, the operation cooperation will include 26 mainline services complemented by a global network of dedicated shuttles centred around owned and/or controlled transhipment hubs; 14 shuttle services in Europe, 4 in the Middle East, 13 in Asia and 1 in the Gulf of Mexico. Offering fast connection with flexible capacity between hubs and points served by shuttle services and vice versa

Both companies are committed to decarbonisation with the industry’s most ambitious targets – Maersk aiming for net zero in 2040 and Hapag-Lloyd in 2045.

Rolf Habben Jansen, CEO of Hapag-Lloyd said, “Teaming up with Maersk will help us to further boost the quality we deliver to our customers. Additionally, we will benefit from efficiency gains in our operations and joint efforts to further accelerate the decarbonisation of our industry,”

Vincent Clerc, CEO of Maersk said, “We are pleased to enter this cooperation with Hapag-Lloyd, which is the ideal ocean partner on our strategic journey. By entering this cooperation, we will be offering our customers a flexible ocean network that will be raising the bar for reliability in the industry. This will strengthen our integrated logistics offering and meet our customers’ needs,”

But what of their old alliances? Well, in January of 2023, the 2M Alliance announced it would be ending come January 2025. In a joint statement, the CEOs of Maersk and MSC said, “MSC and Maersk recognise that much has changed since the two companies signed the 10-year agreement in 2015. Discontinuing the 2M alliance paves the way for both companies to continue to pursue their individual strategies. We have very much appreciated the partnership and look forward to a continued strong collaboration throughout the remainder of the agreement period. We remain fully committed to delivering on the 2M alliance’s services to customers of MSC and Maersk.”

Hapag-Lloyd’s departure from THE Alliance to form Gemini Cooperation has prompted legal scrutiny, with the alliance’s remaining members facing challenges to fill the void. THE Alliance was founded in 2016 and consists of Hapag-Lloyd, HMM, ONE and Yang Ming, with Hapag-Lloyd being the largest member. Hapag -Lloydhad utilised the provision that allowed members to give 12 months’ notice after April 2023 to withdraw early from the arrangement that was set to operate until 2030.

Hapag-Lloyd lawyers are confident there is no legal case to be made against the liner. A spokesperson told Splash, “There is an exit clause. It says that a member can leave after announcement one year prior to leaving. We don’t expect any legal proceedings.”

Simon Heaney, senior manager of container research at UK consultancy Drewry told Splash “THE Alliance members are in a jam and will be desperate to fill the Hapag-Lloyd void.”

Lars Jensen, a former Maersk employee turned liner consultant with Vespucci Maritime speculates that the pressure is on ONE, HMM and Yang Ming to either lure a new partner out from Ocean Alliance or re-invent a new service concept.

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Ocean Alliance consists of CMA CGM, Evergreen and COSCO. Despite the speculation, it is unlikely a member will jump ship to join THE alliance as there is little in the legal write-up of the Ocean Alliance to suggest it will happen soon.

As the maritime landscape undergoes significant shifts, industry players are closely watching the unfolding dynamics between these global shipping giants. The Gemini Cooperation is poised to set new benchmarks for collaboration, reliability, and sustainability in the container shipping sector.

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