Maersk and Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) should know by October 11 whether their collaboration will be allowed to go ahead in the US trades after filing with the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) on Wednesday afternoon.
The Washington agency now has 45 days in which to review the Maersk/MSC vessel-sharing agreement, popularly known as 2M, although the clock can be stopped if commissioners or FMC staff want additional information.
This happened in the case of the now defunct P3 agreement, which was eventually cleared by the FMC before being overruled by China.
The new agreement is a standard VSA, unlike the more ambitious and tightknit P3, and with a smaller market share without the inclusion of French line CMA CGM.
Maersk and MSC hope to begin joint operations in the east-west trades early next year.
The US, where ocean carriers are subject to the requirements of the Shipping Act of 1984 administered by the FMC, is the only jurisdiction in which 2M needs to receive explicit approval, Maersk and MSC say.
The European Commission and China’s Ministry of Transport will be notified, but do not have to give official clearance before the VSA can begin.
The document submitted to the FMC, signed by Maersk’s Vincent Clerc and MSC’s Diego Aponte, covers the trades between ports in the northern Europe-Gibraltar range, plus the Mediterranean, to the US Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coasts, along with ports in Mexico, Canada, Panama, the Bahamas, and Asia to the US.
Although 2M will also cover the Asia-Europe trades, these do not form part of the FMC filing since they are not subject to FMC requirements.
Within the US trades, the 2M parties will be authorised to discuss and agree the size, number and operational characteristics of vessels to be operated, and the number of vessels that each line will contribute.
The agreement says the two lines should be authorised to discuss and agree on such service aspects as the port calls and rotation, itineraries, and service speed.
However, they will negotiate independently, and enter into separate individual contracts, with marine terminal operators, stevedores, and tug operators,
The filed agreement also makes it clear that Maersk and MSC will retain separate identities and independent sales, pricing and marketing functions.
“This agreement does not create and shall not be construed as creating any legal entity or joint liability under the law of any jurisdiction,” the agreement states.
However, a joint co-ordination committee will be set up to oversee day-to-day matters concerning the VSA.
The agreement is due to last for at least 10 years, with a two-year notice period.
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