Maersk-Alibaba tie-up offers smaller clients direct freight booking
DANISH shipping giant Maersk Line and Chinese e-commerce marketplace Alibaba have teamed up to provide sellers direct bookings with the container line, marking another development in the rapidly changing ocean freight procurement space, American Shipper reported.
The tie-up between Maersk Line and the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba provides a direct booking link for shippers using Alibaba's platform, Business Insider reported.
The move essentially allows smaller sellers on the Alibaba marketplace - Amazon's chief global competitor - a way to book ocean freight with Maersk Line without using a freight forwarder or non-vessel operating common carrier.
The report said the service was started on December 22, according to the shipping line.
It's part of a growing trend of carriers seeking to more directly control sales with smaller and mid-size shippers, business they have traditionally ceded to capacity resellers and service providers.
It also continues a trend of Alibaba and Amazon yearning to grow beyond being mere facilitators of product transactions and into providers of direct logistics functions tied to those transactions.
Both trends place pressure on smaller and mid-sized forwarders and NVOs to clearly define their value proposition to shippers, who may be interested in arranging and booking freight directly through a digital platform (whether that platform is with a single carrier or a neutral freight marketplace).
Alibaba already has a partnership with the startup forwarder, Flexport, in which small shipper can use Flexport's services directly through the Alibaba platform.
The Baltimore forwarder and customs broker Shapiro, meanwhile, is an example of a service provider that aids sellers on Amazon through the Fulfilled by Amazon programme.
SeaIntelligence CEO Lars Jensen sees carriers more than ever focused on automation of the front-end of the booking process.
Previously they had been focused on technology that powers the customer service elements of their business, he said.
The evolution in traditional ocean freight procurement is underway on many fronts, from direct carrier-marketplace partnerships like Maersk and Alibaba to ocean freight marketplaces like Haven, iContainer, Simpliship and Freightos and to platforms that digitise the interaction between small forwarders and neutral NVOs, like CoLoadX.