Globalisation and container shipping enjoy a reciprocal relationship. There is little doubt that the expansion of international commerce and the establishment of global manufacturing systems would have been impossible without the efficiencies and economies that containerisation has brought. Container shipping is a facilitator of globalisation. It provides the means to connect markets and customers with a safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation system. At the same time, global forces have impacted on the shipping industry itself. Shipping lines have been forced to provide more services to more markets with larger ships than ever, and this has placed very considerable financial pressures on lines. Customers demand a global service, but in order to satisfy this imperative, the carriers have had to enter new markets and add extra capacity in an environment of heightened competition. This has resulted in an unprecedented consolidation of many of the carriers. While a degree of cooperation between carriers in the container shipping industry has always existed, in the latter part of the 1990s there occurred a significant rapprochement of most of the major actors. Two types of groupings are evident. First, there are multinational mergers involving complete financial integration, such as between the British-based P&O and the Dutch line Nedlloyd, and the acquisition of the US line APL by NOL of Singapore. Here, the merged companies operate under a single management structure. Second, strategic alliances have been formed, whereby firms pool resources (vessels) and operate joint services, while retaining their independence. An example of a recent alliance in container shipping is the Grand Alliance, made up of the German Hapag-Lloyd, the Anglo-Dutch P&O Nedlloyd, the Malaysian MISC, the Japanese NYK and the Hong Kong OOCL.