The European Union’s top transport official has lent his support to the P3 Network between Maersk Line, Mediterranean Shipping Co. and CMA CGM as a counterweight to the growing industrial might of China.
Siim Kallas also claimed the alliance between the world’s three largest ocean carriers will benefit shippers by improving service standards.
“I believe the alliance represents innovation as it aims at rationalizing services and there are multiple issues where they can offer a better service to customers,” the EU transport commissioner said in an interview with ShippingWatch, a Danish industry newsletter.
Kallas’s backing for P3 comes on the eve of a meeting in Washington next week between U.S., European and Chinese regulators to discuss the impact of the planned alliance. Chinese shippers have urged Beijing antitrust authorities to block the alliance because it will have a dominant market share.
Kallas claimed the P3 alliance would help European shipping to confront the growing economic power of China, including its shipping sector, which benefits from cheap container ships built in domestic shipyards with government subsidies.
“In a global competition context, I think the P3 alliance is a very good idea which will strengthen the European competition,” he said.
“We are facing very fierce global competition and of course volumes matter … that’s why China is so strong, they are simply a very big client as well for shipping, and for various raw materials producers. And of course you also need some very big players in order to compete.”
Kallas added, “China is a very serious and very aggressive competitor ... in this context P3 is very interesting because no one else can actually ensure the position of European shipping in globalization.”
The commissioner appeared relaxed regarding the meeting of regulators in Washington on Dec. 17. “Everyone of course has his or her own ideas … and of course the summit is not only about P3. It is also intended to create at least some global rules, and that is positive,” he told Shipping Watch.
While Kallas is the leading EU transport policy maker, he has no influence on the fate of the P3 alliance, which will be decided by the bloc’s competition authorities.
Moreover, under the EU’s complex rules for container shipping, the P3 carriers must conduct a self-assessment to ensure their planned alliance will not abuse a dominant position.