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  January 5th, 2017 | Written by

Maersk, Alibaba to Offer Online Ship Bookings

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  • Offering online services could pose a threat to freight forwarders.
  • Maersk: Purpose of online service is not to bypass freight forwarders.
  • Online service is part of Maersk strategy to provide digital services for customers.

Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping line, is teaming up with Alibaba, a Chinese ecommerce company, to offer shippers an online service to book space on vessels.

It’s the latest example of the growing cooperation between ecommerce and logistics firms.

Maersk, a unit of Denmark’s A.P. Moller-Maersk, began offering the service to shippers in China on Alibaba’s OneTouch booking website on December 22, according to a report from Reuters.

The service allows existing Alibaba OneTouch registered users to lock cargo prices by pre-paying a deposit.

Offering these online services could pose a threat to freight forwarders, the traditional channel for booking space on vessels. The Maersk/Alibaba service allowing cargo owners to book directly with the carrier by way of a website.

Maersk noted the purpose of the service is not to bypass freight forwarders, since they use OneTouch to book cargo and to provide trucking services. The service was launched, according to Maersk, as part of its strategy to provide digital services for customers.

Ecommerce companies are increasingly entering the logistics space in an effort to exert better control over their supply chain networks. Amazon has registered a Chinese business as a freight forwarder and has leased a fleet of aircraft to directly handle some of its deliveries in the United States.

Alibaba, owner of China’s largest ecommerce platform, has ventured into logistics services in recent years by acquiring stakes in courier companies and buying warehouses.

OneTouch, acquired by Alibaba in 2010, provides small and mid-sized Chinese exporters with online customs clearance and logistics services. It also allows them to book air freight and parcel delivery services.

The Maersk/Alibaba services is initially available on routes from eight ports in China, including Shanghai and Ningbo, to ports in Europe and logistics, international trade, imports exports, cargo