The move is intended to help the companies cope with overcapacity
The world's three largest container shipping companies, Maersk Line, MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), and CMA CGM, have agreed to share vessels as a way to reduce losses from overcapacity and falling rates.
In a press release by Maersk Line, the company said that subject to the approval of the deal, the three groups plan to start offering sailings on each other's ships through a joint operating centre in the second quarter of 2014.
The alliance, to be known as P3, would have some 2.6 milion twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) of capacity, and will require approval from authorities in the European Union (EU), the U.S., China, and Brazil to address possible anti-competitive issues.
Jacob Pedersen, Analyst, Sydbank
This is about 40 percent of the world's container capacity now forming an alliance
The three carriers account for around 40 percent of global container capacity.
Maersk Line say it will include its new Triple-E ships in its contribution of approximately 42% of the capacity, of about 1.1 million TEU.
MSC will contribute with approximately 34% of the capacity, about 0.9 million TEU, and CMA CGM will contribute the remaining 24% of capacity equalling 0.6 million TEU.
Analysts told Reuters that the companies are likely to have difficulty getting clearance to move forward with the plan.
"After all, this is about 40 percent of the world's container capacity now forming an alliance," Sydbank analyst Jacob Pedersen said.
Rates for shipments between Asia and Europe have dropped about 60 percent since mid-March as excess vessels on the market created intense competition.
Maersk Line parent company A.P. Moller-Maersk (Maersk) said last month that it will more than double freight rates in July to respond to a market that has many companies operating routes at a loss.
Observers have also said that the success of Maersk Line's new Triple-E ships will depend on the company's ability to fill them.