Maersk Line has expanded its online booking platform following a pilot period, in what some have suggested poses a greater threat to traditional freight forwarders than the digital disruptors.
Ship.maerskline.com has been rolled out to China-based customers in Ningbo, Qingdao and Shanghai exporting to Mediterranean ports.
Head of trade management Silvia Ding said the service was “different” to offline services, as it ensured “mutual commitment” by securing both a container and space.
“It also provides competitive and fixed prices which give customers a stable service delivery,” said Ms Ding.
“Through the steady volumes booked per week on this platform, we are happy to see that our customers are embracing the increased transparency in pricing and visibility of service delivery.”
The service was initially available under a pilot scheme launched in November for exports from Dalian, Qingdao and Xingang into the east coast of South America, as well as South and West African ports.
A spokesperson for Maersk Line told, the initial routes would remain available via the online booking platform, adding that what was learnt during the pilot allowed for the wider roll-out.
“Both customers and Maersk Line have given positive feedback and therefore we decided to expand our service scope to other trades,” added the spokesperson.
“Customers seem pleased with it and we are happy with the business outcome – we continuously evaluate performance of the platform and may extend to other trades if we see the demand.”
At this year’s TPM in Long Beach DB Schenker chief executive Jochen Thewes described carrier’s online platforms as the “greatest challenge” to traditional freight forwarding.
“Today you are seeing truck manufacturers with the potential to collect large amounts of data from automated trucking fleets,” Mr Thewes told delegates.
“Platforms will mean that he could become a freight broker when his vehicles pick up loads – suddenly we have a new competitor.
“We’re seeing major shipping lines beginning to implement platforms, allowing them to engage SME shippers in a way they haven’t been able to before – I believe this will change forwarding forever.”
However, the Maersk spokesperson insisted the online platform was developed via customer feedback, which included forwarders.
One “frequent” customer said they were “very pleased” with the service, particularly praising the instant pricing and commitment of space and equipment.
In a statement, Maersk said the industry had faced challenges over the years linked to cancellations and no shows but added the no-show payment would help to address this.
“The mutual commitment is also a great benefit for us, as we get new market insights and have managed to reduce downfall significantly on our digital platform,” added Ms Ding.
“This allows us to improve our planning and vessel optimisation which ultimately enhances the customer experience.”