French giant CMA CGM – a regular in Southampton’s port – Denmark’s AP Møller-Maersk and Swiss Mediterranean Shipping Co. had planned to unite in a global alliance, called the P3 Network.
The alliance would have meant the three firms would have controlled almost half of the Asia-to-Europe container shipping market.
It also sparked fears within the port in Southampton that the alliance may have decided to switch trade from Southampton to the recently-built London Gateway port, therefore putting jobs at risk.
The deal had looked set to go ahead, after it won US and European approval, with regulatory authorities’ permission necessary for it to take place.
But the Chinese authorities have decided to pull the plug on the deal, saying the firms had “failed to demonstrate that the alliance would bring more befnefit than harm, or that it is in line with the public interest”.
A spokesman for DP World, which operates Southam-pton’s container terminal, said: “CMA CGM has been a customer in Southampton for a long time and was expected to continue to call at Southampton as part of P3.
“With the P3 Alliance not happening, we expect for the short term, the existing arrangements with CMA CGM calling at Southampton on two of their Europe Asia services to continue unchanged, similarly MSC is expected to continue taking slots on the CMA CGM services as they do today.”
City councillor Royston Smith, who sits on the Port of Southampton Consultative Committee, said: “I am hugely relieved that this proposed alliance will not go ahead.
“While the commercial decisions of the companies involved are nothing to do with me I would have been concerned that this would put jobs at risk in the Port of Southampton.
“We are already having to face challenges from other ports and cruise and container operators and we can ill afford many more issues that could impact on local employment.”