Just 1,401 20-foot equivalent units separate Maersk Line and Mediterranean Shipping at the top two spots in The Journal of Commerce rankings of the Top 40 Import Container Lines for the first quarter of 2011. The razor-thin division came about because Maersk’s container volume fell 8 percent year-over-year while MSC volume surged 21.8 percent.
On the export side, MSC extended its margin as the No. 1 carrier with a 27.5 percent spike as No. 2 Maersk Line dipped 1.1 percent.
In combined U.S. imports and exports, MSC ranked No. 1 with an 11.5 percent market share and ahead of Maersk by a 143,971-TEU margin, at 809,119 TEUs for the first quarter 2011.
The key for MSC was that the liner company grew at more than double the pace of the overall market, with a 24.7 percent year-over-year increase that put the company 45.4 percent ahead of pre-recession first quarter 2008 results.
Maersk Line, ranking No. 2 in total trade with a 9.4 percent market share, had total volume of 665,148 TEUs in the first quarter, off 5.2 percent year-over-year and 18.7 percent below first quarter 2008 results.
The overall U.S. laden container trade in first quarter 2011 was nearly 7.06 million TEUs, up 583,140 TEUs or 9 percent over the first quarter of 2010. Significantly, that volume is still 158,397 TEUs or 2.2 percent below first quarter 2008 results. Many carriers have yet to return to pre-recession volume levels.
U.S. exports led shipping growth in the first quarter, expanding 11.2 percent year-over-year and gaining 0.9 percentage points to 44.2 percent of the total U.S. container trade. Imports were up 7.3 percent year-over-year but remained 5.2 percent below pre-recession first quarter 2008 results.
Growth performance among the JOC Top 40 export carriers in the first quarter was uneven, from a 120.9 percent year-over-year volume gain at 18th-ranked CSAV Group to a 31.2 percent loss by Trailer Bridge, ranked No. 30. Export volume declined from the first quarter of 2010 at 11 carriers. In fact, only 15 of the Top 40 carriers showed export volume ahead of first quarter 2008 results.
The volume swings on the import side were even more extreme.
CSAV Group, ranked No. 16, jumped 253.6 percent from last year, but 13 carriers reported volume below their 2010 first quarter results. Top 40 import carrier volume was 5.2 percent below pre-recession first quarter 2008 results, with 18 of the Top 40 import carriers in the red.
Two 2010 container carrier start-ups were in the JOC Top 40 rankings. Hainan PO Shipping began U.S. service at Long Beach in September 2010 and ranked No. 26 in imports in the first quarter of 2011. The Containership Company, known as TCC, began its U.S. service at Los Angeles in May 2010, and ranked No. 29 in imports and No. 32 in exports in the first quarter of 2011, but has since left the trade.
Meanwhile, Alphaliner’s Top 50 Global Container Fleet Operators ranking as of June 7 calculates the current active total liner trade TEU capacity at 15,446,874 TEUs aboard 5,990 ships, up 3 percent from the March 21 reading.
These Top 50 global fleet operators currently have 3,489,574-TEU capacity in 458 new ships on order, representing 24.2 percent of their existing fleet capacity.
A.P. Moller-Maersk, Mediterranean Shipping and CMA CGM remained at the top three spots in capacity, but Evergreen moved up a spot to No. 4, supplanting Hapag-Lloyd. Cosco jumped to the No. 5 position from its previous spot at No. 8.