Carriers are starting to distinguish themselves with new corporate strategies.

It has been said that differentiation is impossible in the container shipping industry, more so in an age of large scale vessel sharing agreements when lines are all aboard the same ship, and that carriers can only really compete on price.

Even to long-time industry watchers such as Drewry it has often been hard to distinguish one carrier from another with few observable unique selling points aside from obvious regional affiliations and size. However, things may be about to change as there is growing evidence of a divergence in corporate strategies among carriers that could drastically alter the shape of the industry.

Broadly speaking, we see three main types of strategy being presented by lines at the moment. They indicate that a company either wants to break free from its traditional confines of port to port services and expand its reach into other links in the supply chain, or consolidate its core sea product, or finally enhance its liner scale. Each approach has its own risks associated, but if the seekers of global supply chain integration are successful the future liner playing field will be far from level.