According to MANA, Overcapacity and anaemic economic growth globally have left hundreds of ships idle in the industry's worst slump since its birth in the 1950s and 1960s, which culminated in the collapse in August of South Korea's Hanjin Shipping Co Ltd.
Nippon Yusen KK, Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd and Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd said they would form a joint venture that will have 2.0 trillion yen ($19.1 billion) in combined revenue and control 7 percent of global container shipping capacity.
"The aim of becoming one this time is so none of us become zero," said Tadaaki Naito, the president of Nippon Yusen, at a joint news conference in Tokyo.
Container shipping has seen a wave of mergers and acquisitions as companies try to grab a bigger share of a depressed market.
The world's No.3 player, CMA CGM of France, is in the process of acquiring Singapore's Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) , while German container shipping line Hapag-Lloyd AG agreed earlier this year to merge with United Arab Shipping Company (UASC).
The Japanese joint venture to be owned 38 percent by Nippon Yusen and 31 percent each by Mitsui OSK and Kawasaki Kisen, will be formed on July 1, 2017 and begin operations in April 2018, they said in a joint statement.
It will have a fleet of 256 ships with a total capacity of 1.38 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEU), and is expected to create annual cost benefits of about 110 billion yen, the statement said.
The three firms reported operating losses for the six months to end-September and lowered their full-year forecasts. The forecast combined operating loss would amount to 84 billion yen for the year ending March 2017, versus their July prediction of a combined loss of 23 billion yen.
"Hanjin's bankruptcy probably had a positive impact on the container market" as it had removed some capacity from the market, Noriko Miyamoto, an investor relations officer for Nippon Yusen said at a press briefing on Monday.