Chapter 9: Top International Container Shipping Companies in Sea Freight Business
As you would expect, there is no monopoly in the container shipping business.
Many companies have come up offering equally reliable and cost-effective container shipping services.
Note that container shipping is the most popular and efficient means of transporting goods country to country by sea.
The containers are often shipped using two major shipping vessels; liners and tramps.
Liner and tramp vessels have varying features.
Most of these features are designed to suit the specific needs of shippers and the business.
· Liner Vessels vs. Charter (Tramp) Vessels (What’s the Difference?)
Well, a liner vessel, to begin with, is a kind of vessel designed to transport goods across international destination via a fixed route.
Liner vessel only follows predetermined routes and their availability is often advertised per port.
Note that liners follow a very fixed schedule which as mentioned is often advertised per port for shippers to book.
You should know they are designed to carry various types of goods.
They have various decks, bales, and generally varying spaces for loading different kinds of cargo including reefer cargo.
To use a liner vessel, you’ll have to wait until your route is advertised then book shipping space as per what is advertised.
Tramp vessels or charter vessels, on the other hand, operate according to the prevalent market demand.
Their routes, schedules, and cost are a not predetermined like in the case of liner vessels.
These are usually a function of the market conditions.
It is interesting to know that sometimes tramp vessels leave origin ports without knowing what their destination is.
Even when on transit, the ship can be redirected to the highest bidder.
Similarly, a charter vessel does not operate on a fixed route or selected ports.
For instance, a ship can transport grains from Shenzhen to Chicago.
The same ship will then be loaded with electronics for transportation from Chicago to Durban.
Generally, tramp ships do not follow any predetermined routes neither do they follow fixed shipping schedules.
These vessels are available on short notice and are also relatively cheaper to use compared to the liner ships.
· Examples of Container Shipping Companies
Now that we know the difference between liner and charter vessels let’s look at some of the top international shipping companies in sea freight business.
If you have been in the import/export business, then surely know Maersk.
This is like the biggest container shipping company in the world.
APM-Maersk is a Danish company whose headquarters are located in Copenhagen.
It also has subsidiary offices in more than 130 countries and regions around the world.
Presently, Maersk is presently the leading company among the world’s top 10 container shipping companies.
While employing more than 85000 people across the globe, Maersk also boasts of a fleet of over 500 ships with a container capacity of about 3 million TEUs.
Following APM-Maersk, the Mediterranean shipping company limited is the second largest shipping line in container vessel capacity.
This company boasts of a 471 vessel fleet with an average container capacity of about 2.4 million TEUs.
MSC currently employees more than 24,000 people in more than 480 offices across 150 countries around the world.
Mediterranean Shg Co (MSC)
Its vessels operate about 200 trade routes calling 315 ports across the globe.
Looking at how far this company has come, MSC is one of the fastest growing shipping container companies at the moment.
The company has grown from owning just one vessel, Patricia in 1970.
Several second-hand vessels followed this, and now the company owns over 400 shops among them the largest container ship, MSC Oscar which has a capacity of about 19 224 TEUs.
The CMA CGM group is one of the world’s leading shipping companies that was founded in Marseille, France in the year 1978.
CMA CGM Group
Presently, CMA owns a fleet of 504 diversified vessels which call about 420 of the world’s 521 commercial ports.
The company surprisingly employs over 30, 000 people in 755 offices across 160 around the world.
4500 of these people are employees based at CMA’s world-class headquarters in Marseille, France.
COSCO which in full is China ocean shipping company has more than 300 subsidiaries under its name.
The company is one of the leading logistics service providers in China, and it has been in business for almost a decade now.
COSCO Shipping Co Ltd
Being relatively new in the sea freight marketplace, COSCO has gained a lead over other shipping companies that operate in Asia.
In 2012, the company was listed among the top 15 China brands.
It is currently the world’s 4th largest shipping container line and the 1st in Asia region.
Although new (relatively), COSCO has expanded its operations to major cities worldwide, serving about 289 ports in more than 80 countries across Asia, Europe, America and parts of Africa.
Hapag-Lloyd is a German brand which specializes in freight shipping.
The company was founded in 1970 as a merger between two companies; Hamburg America line and Nord Deutscher Lloyd.
Hapag Lloyd AG
Presently, Hapag-Lloyd ranks as the world’s 5th largest container carrier regarding vessel capacity.
This German carrier serves routes across Latin-American, Trans-Atlantic, Middle East and Trans-pacific regions among others.
Founded in 1968 by its chairman billionaire Yung-Fa Chang, Evergreen is ranked among the world’s top 10 largest container shipping companies.
This company has shown tremendous growth since its inception into the container shipping business.
Currently, Evergreen owns more than 150 container ships that call 240 ports in more than 80 countries and territories across the globe.
Evergreen Marine Corp.
The company is Taiwanese with its headquarters in Luzhu District, Taoyuan city in Taiwan.
It serves routes across the Far East, Caribbean, Europe, America, Australia, and Africa.
NYK which is an abbreviation for Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha is one of the oldest and largest container shipping lines in the world.
The company, which has its headquarters in Chiyoda, Tokyo Japan has been in operation since 1870 when the Tosa clan people first founded it.
Since then, NYK has undergone several changes and developments that has it seen it blossom.
It is one of the most sought-after shipping lines in Asia and the world in general.
You may be interested to know that Nippon Yusen has a fleet of about 800 ships.
These include container vessel, bulk carriers, tankers, RO-ROs, woodchip carriers, reefers, cruise ships, etc.
Founded in 1972, Yang Ming marine transport corporation is a Taiwanese company headquartered in Keelung, Taiwan.
This company has a very rich history all thanks to its merger with China merchants steam Navigation Company.
Yang Ming Marine Transport Corp.
YML currently operates a fleet of over 80 ships with an 8250 TEU container capacity.
It also operates about 17 bulk carriers.
The shipping line calls, 170 service ports in more than 90 countries around the world.
Based in Hamburg, Germany, Hamburg Süd was founded in 1871 as Hamburg Südamerikanische Dampfschifffahrts-Gesellschaft ApS & Co KG.
Hamburg Sud Group
The company was formerly part of the Oetker group.
It was later sold to APM-Maersk group in 2017 and is now among the world’s top 20 container shipping lines.
It is also one of the top 5 reefer brands in the world.
HBS has over 6300 employees in 250 offices in more than 100 countries around the world
With headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan, Wan Hai lines is one of the largest container shipping companies in the Asian regions.
Wan Hai Lines
The company has a capacity of over 90,000 TEUs.
It was founded in 1965 as a log transportation company serving Taiwan and South East Asia regions.
The company currently employs more than 3.94k people and has a fleet of about 70 full container ships.
Kline whose name is an acronym for the three Ks of Kawasaki, Kisen, and Kaisha is one of the biggest container shipping companies operating internationally.
The company was founded in 1919 after merging Kawasaki, Kisen, and Kaisha to form a stronger carrier of 40-50 vessels.
After its inception, Kline has faced tremendous challenges which includes loosing over 50 vessels by the end of the Second World War.
It however still stands strong as one of the most in-demand shipping lines in Asia and beyond.
Kline recently merged with Nippon Yusen and Mitsui lines, to form a joint venture operating under the banner, Ocean Network Express.
The new joint venture began operations in April 2018 and has a holding office in Tokyo Japan and headquarter offices in Singapore.
It also has regional headquarters in several nations, including the UK, USA, Hong Kong and Brazil.
Hyundai merchant marine abbreviated to HMM is a South Korean container shipping company founded in 1976.
Presently the company operates a vessel line-up of over 130 states of the art ships.
Thus, it is ranked the 14th largest container shipping companies regarding vessel capacity.
A Singaporean conglomerate, Pacific International Lines is one of the largest container ship owners in South East Asia.
Pacific Int. Line
At present, the company has a container capacity of over 440,000 TEUs with a fleet of about 160 modern ships.
8. MOL Liner (MOL)
MOL is the abbreviation of Mitsui O.S.K Lines, a company based in Minato, Tokyo, Japan.
MOL which started in 1884 as part of the family-owned conglomerate Mitsui Zaibatsu, has risen among its ranks to become one of Asia largest container shipping companies.
In 2017, MOL together with NYK and K lines decided to merge their container operations to form what is now known as ocean network express.
As I said, container shipping is a huge business that is also complicated.
And today, these are the key players in the container shipping business worldwide.