The P3 alliance was originally intended to begin this spring. But then there were warnings from the Chinese authorities, who won’t make a decision about the legitimacy of the alliance until June, causing the first alliance services to be postponed until midway through 2014. And now there is a further postponement: two of the three participating companies, the Danish Maersk shipping line, the Geneva-based MSC line, and the French company CMA-CGM, have announced that they won’t discuss it until the fall. And that is how the most explosive news in the world of shipping last year has evaporated into a “date to be announced” sort of situation. The reasons for this delay have not yet been revealed. The postponement was announced by Maersk at a recent financial presentation and by CMA-CGM in a press release. “CMA-CGM is planning for P3 to start in the fall of 2014,” says the notice, which explains that “the P3 alliance is subject to the issuing of the authorizations that are required. On 24 March 2014, the Federal Maritime Commission of the United States (FMC) decided to allow the P3 Network agreement to become operational in the United States.
The members of the P3 alliance are each pursuing cooperation with the European antitrust and maritime authorities on their own, asking questions and explaining the nature of P3.” The alliance was announced by Maersk, MSC and CMA-CGM on 18 June 2013 and the idea was to begin operations in the second trimester of this year. The list of ports and services in which the three companies would operate collaboratively as part of P3 was released in October 2013. The ports, including the five Italian ports of Genoa, La Spezia, Naples, Gioia Tauro and Trieste, are awaiting approval for the services and are wondering whether they will be able to handle the large ships that are typical of the three shipping lines’ fleets. The P3 ships have capacities as large as 18,000 TEU. Italian ports should see smaller ships, up to 13,000 TEU, but there may very well be surprises, as happened in the past, when the arrival of the latest generation of ships was anticipated in the port of Genoa in particular. Only Gioia Tauro will be part of the routes for the largest ships. Gioia Tauro is seeing a recovery in traffic, but it continues to be linked to a single company, which is MSC. The P3 alliance would mean the return of Maersk to Gioia Tauro, since the company abandoned the port a few years ago, causing a whole series of disputes. Now many workers at the Contship MCT terminal are on temporary unemployment pay, a measure that will have to be extended for another year. But the postponement could also have an advantage for the Calabrian port of Gioia Tauro: it would prevent the arrival of the new ships from overlapping with the delicate operation that has been planned for the transfer of Syrian chemical weapons, which keeps being postponed. Meanwhile, in Naples the P3 alliance will not cause significant changes, as the President of the maritime agents’ association, Andrea Mastellone, explains, “because all three companies are already operating here.” However, it will still be a challenge, because another alliance, the CKYHE alliance, recently decided to leave. At the Neapolitan port preregistrations have already been submitted for the arrival of the first P3 alliance ships in July. The ships are 4,500 TEU Maersk units for the United States service. Now operators are wondering whether the postponement will cause this service to be delayed as well.