Top 40 Container Carriers

The JOC regularly ranks the Top 40 container carriers in the US trade by import, export, and total volume using trade data from PIERS.

The list evolves each year, and reflects changes in the US economy and container trade, as carriers jostle for position and import and export volume rises or falls.

Top Five Ocean Carriers

The Top 5 US carriers are Maersk Line, Mediterranean Shipping Co., CMA CGM/APL, Hapag-Lloyd, and Evergreen Line. With the exception of Evergreen Line, the Top 5 US carriers are also in the Top 5 for global fleet operators. The carriers are organized into global vessel-sharing agreements. Those currently in effect are the 2M Alliance of MSC and Maersk, the Ocean Alliance of CMA CGM, APL, Cosco Shipping, Evergreen Line, and OOCL, and the Transport High Efficiency (THE) Alliance of Ocean Network Express, Yang Ming Line, and Hapag-Lloyd.

Carriers have had to adjust to a new reality of growth following the Great Recession (2007 to 2009), when the GDP multiplier, which refers to the rate of global container trade growth as a multiple of global GDP expansion, fell from 2.2 to around 1.1.

This seismic shift occurred just as the industry was absorbing a surge of new capacity and carriers ordered and put into service mega-ships in excess of 20,000 TEU. That led to severe overcapacity that drove down rates and ate into carrier profitability and generated losses, culminating in the August 2016 collapse of Hanjin Shipping, which at the time was the world’s seventh-largest container line. 

Previous Ocean Carrier Rankings

Top 40 Container Carriers US Import and Export Trades, January-September 2017

Top 40 Container Carriers US Import and Export Trades, January-June 2017

Top 40 Container Carriers US Import and Export Trades, January-March 2017

Top 40 Container Carriers, US Import and Export Trades, January-December 2016

Top 40 Container Carriers US Import and Export Trades, January-September 2016

Top 40 Container Carriers US Import and Export Trades, January-June 2016

Top 40 Container Carriers US Import and Export Trades, January-March 2016

Top 40 Container Carriers, US Import and Export Trades, January-December 2015

Top 40 Container Carriers in US Export Trade, January-December 2014

Top 40 Container Carriers in US Import Trade, January-December 2014

Top 40 Container Carriers in US Export Trade, January-September 2014

Top 40 Container Carriers in US Import Trade, January-September 2014 

Top 40 Container Carriers in US Export Trade, 2013

Top 40 Container Carriers in US Import Trade, 2013

Top 40 Carriers in US Containerized Trade in the First Half of 2013

Top 40 Carriers in US Containerized Trade in 2012

Special Coverage

Initial integration problems of Ocean Network Express had an impact on the first-half share of US trade, both exports and imports, carried by the Top 5 US trade carriers.

News & Analysis

Port of Los Angeles.
16 Nov 2018
The US imports surge from Asia since mid-summer is due largely to savvy capacity management by carriers individually and through vessel-sharing alliances. However, retailers’ front-loading of imports to stay ahead of tariffs on China led to an earlier-than-expected peak-shipping season this summer and now to fast-forwarding of spring merchandise.
Rotterdam port at sunrise.
16 Nov 2018
Those who want to end the legal framework exempting liner shipping consortia from European Union antitrust rules say it would increase competition and therefore shipper choice. But this is an instance where the solution may ultimately lead to an outcome that’s worse than the current condition.
A modern/new-design container ship.
15 Nov 2018
Rather than developing a platform, the ocean carriers involved are taking another approach to try to achieve the goal of common information technology standards.
Port Houston
15 Nov 2018
Imports are important to Gulf ports’ growth because ocean carriers in the major east-west trades deploy capacity based on imports, which command freight rates about four times higher than exports.
Heavy lift ship.
14 Nov 2018
Many project shippers have reported a lack of clarity regarding contracts extending into or beyond 2020; these clauses will help set the stage for the IMO 2020 transition.
The Port of Oakland.
14 Nov 2018
Rising operating costs that are siphoning off profitability will see carriers having a much greater hold on capacity going into what is looking like a volatile 2019.

Commentary

Cosco has undertaken a series of investments and expansions that serve as evidence that it’s pressing on strong with its ambitious aim.

More Commentary