Non-alliance services experience significant growth


Rising demand led to a significant influx of non-alliance capacity, including niche carriers on the Asia-North Europe route.

The initial disruptions to global supply chains triggered by the pandemic had a profound impact on non-alliance services — those operated independently of existing alliance structures. Many of these services ceased operations on major East-West trade routes.

According to Sea-Intelligence, the subsequent surge in demand for goods and rising spot rates prompted a significant influx of non-alliance capacity into the market.

Consequently, even the Asia-North Europe route, which had predominantly been alliance-operated, saw the entry of several niche carriers offering solitary services.

Growth in non-alliance services
Credit: Sea-Intelligence

Figure 1 shows the historical share of non-alliance capacity in the Asia to North America West Coast trade, as well as 12 weeks into the future, based on current deployment plans from the shipping lines.

As such, the Asia-North America West Coast trade lane is poised to see a sharp increase in the capacity share of non-alliance services in the coming months.

The data shows that nearly 30% of the deployed capacity on the trade lane is scheduled to be offered on services operated outside the alliance structures.

There is a similar pattern for Asia-North Europe, but less so for Asia-North America East Coast and Asia-Mediterranean.

On Asia-North Europe, if the current 12-week outlook remains, record levels (touching 12%) of non-alliance capacity on the trade lane will be recorded.

Across the main East-West trades, it is clear that the main driver of the non-alliance share is spot rates; a sharp increase in spot rates during the pandemic triggered a sharp increase in non-alliance services, and vice versa when the spot rates collapsed in the second half of 2022.

This pattern is now repeating, as the sharp spot rate increases seen in recent months, once again coincide with an increase in non-alliance services.

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