Boxship Firms Sign up with Alibaba

File Image: A CMA CGM boxship condusting cargo operations alongside (CREDIT: Marad)

Posted by Joseph Keefe

Two container shipping lines, France's CMA CGM and
Israel's Zim, have signed up with Alibaba to allow customers to
book space on their vessels through the Chinese e-commerce giant,
in a bid to boost sales as the sector battles a severe
downturn.

Container lines, facing their worst ever downturn due to a glut
of ships and weaker demand, are pursuing several measures such as
vessel-sharing arrangements or mergers and acquisitions to ride
out the current slump. A growing number of logistics firms are
going online to buoy their business.

In December, Maersk - the world's largest container shipping line
and a unit of Denmark's A.P. Moller-Maersk - started offering
online booking services to Chinese shippers on Alibaba's OneTouch
website.

Shippers traditionally go through freight forwarders to book
space for goods on container vessels, but more liners are
allowing cargo owners to book directly via the internet. As for
e-commerce companies, they are venturing into logistics to try to
gain better control over their supply chain networks.

"Alibaba.com is open to collaborating with logistics firms who
want to join our platform which aims to streamline the logistics
process for small and medium-sized enterprises and empower them
to seize cross-border trade opportunities," an Alibaba
spokeswoman told Reuters in an e-mail on Thursday.

Israeli shipping line Zim, which is 32 percent owned by Kenon
Holdings, has begun allowing customers to book space through the
platform on routes such as Shanghai to India and Pakistan, or
from Xiamen to South America, according to advertisements posted
on the OneTouch platform.

France's CMA CGM has signed a memorandum of understanding with
Alibaba to begin cooperating on the OneTouch platform for routes
such as Qingdao to Barcelona or Ningbo to Venice, it said in a
statement.

Acquired by Alibaba in 2010, OneTouch targets small and
medium-sized Chinese exporters with online services such as
customs clearance and logistics. It also allows them to book air
freight and parcel delivery services and supports its parent
Alibaba.com's business-to-business marketplace.

Maersk has begun offering a similar service to customers of
online freight forwarding website Yun Qu Na, it said in an e-mail
to Reuters on Thursday. The liner said in January that it planned
to launch more pilot programmes on third party portals.

Reporting by Brenda Goh

Feb 16, 2017

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