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WSJ: Shipping Alliances Shore Up Industry, Unsettle Customers

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WSJ / A tumultuous year in the container-shipping industry, which included one big operator going under and others bundling together to stay afloat, ended with three major alliances poised to dominate ocean trade for years to come.

Container shipping, which moves 95% of all manufactured goods, is estimated by industry executives to be worth $1 trillion a year. Traditionally controlled by sovereign-wealth funds and deep-pocketed individuals, it has been a fragmented industry over the past 30 years, with dozens of operators regularly undercutting each other on price.

But overcapacity and sluggish global trade have forced the biggest players to merge or form alliances, allowing them to cut operating costs by hundreds of millions of dollars by sharing ships and port calls. The three major groupings, called 2M, Ocean Alliance and THE Alliance, have cleared most regulatory hurdles over the past two years.

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