COPENHAGEN – Maersk Line, the world’s largest container carrier, just got bigger.

Maersk and the Oetker Group have reached an agreement for Maersk Line to acquire Oetker division Hamburg Süd, the German container shipping line.

With the acquisition, Maersk Line will have container capacity of around 3.8 million 20-foot-equivalent units and an 18.6% global capacity share. The combined fleet will consist of 741 container vessels with an average age of 8.7 years. Maersk had 2015 revenue of $23.7 billion.

Maersk Line expects to close the transaction next year, following the approval of the sales and purchase agreement, which is expected early in the second quarter of 2017.

Hamburg Süd is the world’s seventh-largest container shipping line and a leader in the North-South trade routes. The company operates 130 container vessels with a container capacity of 625,000 20-foot equivalents. It has 5,960 employees in more than 250 offices across the world and markets its services through the Hamburg Süd, CCNI (based in Chile) and Aliança (based in Brazil) brands. In 2015, Hamburg Süd had sales of $6.7 million of which $6.3 million stems from its container line activities.

“Hamburg Süd is a very well-run and highly respected company with strong brands, dedicated employees and loyal customers,” said Søren Skou, CEO of Maersk Line and the Maersk Group. “Hamburg Süd complements Maersk Line, and together we can offer our customers the best of two worlds, first of all in the North-South trades.”

“While gaining access to a superior network and systems, we will continue the Hamburg Süd brand and business model offering personalized solutions to our shippers and consignees,” said Ottmar Gast, chairman of the Hamburg Süd Group. “By joining forces both Maersk and Hamburg Süd will strengthen their product portfolio and cost position to the benefit of their customers.”

In September, Maersk Line had announced that it would grow market share organically and through acquisitions. “The acquisition of Hamburg Süd is in line with our growth strategy and will increase the volumes of both Maersk Line and APM Terminals,” said Skou.

Hamburg Süd and Aliança will continue as separate brands and continue to serve customers through their local offices.

In the combined network, Hamburg Süd and Maersk Line’s customers will have access to the dedicated end-to-end services provided by Hamburg Süd in the North-South trades as well as the flexibility and reach provided in Maersk Line’s global network. Furthermore, the combined network will enable Maersk Line to develop new products with more direct port calls and shorter transit times.