A plan by the world's three biggest container shipping operators to create an alliance has been scrapped after Chinese authorities blocked it.

Vincent Clerc, chief trade and marketing officer at Denmark's A.P. Moller-Maersk, said Tuesday that the rejection by China - which like other major economies was reviewing the merger's potential impact on the market - came as a surprise. U.S. and European regulators had previously cleared the deal.

As a result, the "P3" alliance of Maersk, MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company S.A. and CMA CGM of France, "as initially planned will not come into existence," Clerc said.

The impact of the decision on the Port of Charleston was not immediately clear. All three lines serve Charleston.

The State Ports Authority has been preparing for the alliance, saying the steamship operators would likely send their larger cargo vessels to ports like Charleston. Such a situation would have put pressure for more landside capacity and intensified the need to deepen Charleston Harbor to 50 feet from 45.

"The lines in the proposed P3 are the three largest carriers in the world, and as such are very important to the Port of Charleston," said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the SPA. "I am sure they will focus on other creative ways to employ the large ships they have in operation or on order."

The proposed alliance, first proposed in June last year, was to be an independently operated network with 255 vessels and was set to start operations in late 2014. The alliance was to operate a capacity of 2.6 million containers between Asia and Europe, across the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean.

It was intended to be an operational, not a commercial, cooperation, Maersk said. Each company would have continued to have fully independent sales, marketing and customer service functions.

The decision to abandon the alliance will have no material impact on the Maersk Group's expected result for 2014, the company said.

The Post and Courier contributed to this report.