MSI: Container Lines Shift Focus from Technology to Flexibility

Container lines have shifted their focus towards alliance structures for operational efficiency, rather than relying on large scale technological innovation, according to research and consultancy firm Maritime Strategies International (MSI).

With container lines continuing to seek cost savings, MSI Analyst Jamie Seneviratne said that any equipment manufacturer looking to drive innovation must consider how vessels employing their systems can be compatible with other ships operated in the same alliance structure.

“Historically, container shipping has seen some of the most pioneering uses of technology and new vessel designs, with bold movements towards innovation. Pushing the bounds of technology were independent owners who built a series of containerships designed with specific objectives in mind. These ships were built with an eye on sustainable development and efficiency in ways many others had not considered,” he said.

Despite these achievements, the drive for innovation in container shipping has proceeded at an uneven pace, with technical innovations such as eco-ships and new vessel sizes, have been followed by an increase in ordering. However, the dynamics of the new alliance structures within the industry may challenge the speed, and shape of technological innovation, according to MSI.

“The containership industry is in a state of transition and whilst some liner companies and owners are trying to embrace and drive change, others have struggled to shift their business model. Liner companies need to find a way to consolidate their operations sufficiently to gain economies of scale, achieve cost synergies and eventually obtain some degree of pricing power,” Seneviratne said.

Within this context, any distinct design features or technical innovations on those ships must be compatible in terms of operating alongside a string of other vessels, potentially of different designs.

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