Danish shipping and oil group A.P. Moller-Maersk says the world's three biggest shipping container operators have entered an alliance to reduce fuel consumption and improve service and operations.

Vincent Clerc of the Copenhagen-based company's shipping unit says MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company S.A. and CMA CGM of France will form the P3 alliance with Maersk Line.

Clerc said Tuesday that it will mean "even more efficient and competitive" operations.

The alliance will be an independently operated network with 255 vessels and is to start operations next year, depending on regulatory approvals. Maersk stressed the companies will continue to have fully independent sales, marketing and customer service functions.

The P3 alliance will operate a capacity of 2.6 million containers between Asia and Europe, across the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean.