CALIFORNIA: Maersk Line has successfully tested technology to digitalize much of the voluminous documentation required to move containerized cargo, the carrier’s Chief Commercial Officer, Vincent Clerc, said attendees at the JOC’s 17th annual TPM Conference.
A trial shipment completed recently between North Europe and the East Coast of North America is a sign of digitalization’s potential to simplify shipping, and “take a humongous cost out of the supply chain,” Clerc said.
Maersk is exploring the possibility of building “an end-to-end global trade network”, in which all of the up to 200 possible transactions in a cargo shipment are digitalized with help from blockchain technology that uses a shared, decentralized database.
Clerc said Maersk began pursuing digitalization after an internal study highlighted the complexity that accompanies international shipments. He cited a shipment of flowers from East Africa to Northern Europe.
“We found that the shipper and the consignee had to interact with 28 different entities — customs, terminals, shipping lines, forwarders, phytosanitary authorities, and so on. At the end, we had a stack of paper two inches thick,” he said. Digitalization of this data offers a “huge opportunity,” Clerc said.
Maersk also is moving to adopt other technologies, including remote monitoring of its 270,000 refrigerated containers to provide shippers with real-time information, and improved delivery-order management that. These and other initiatives are in response to customer demands, Clerc said.
Last September, Maersk announced plans to separate its energy and transportation businesses, and for more vertical integration of Maersk Line and the carrier’s sister APM Terminals and Damco logistics units.
“We want to become the integrator of global shipping because we believe it is the safest way to create more customer value,” Clerc said. “It is the best way for us to stay relevant for our customers for the next 100 years.”
In recent years, Maersk had positioned APMT and Damco as neutral companies with arms-length relationships to Maersk Line. Clerc said APMT and Damco will continue to handle third-party business, and that the companies’ basic business models will not change.
“Maersk Line will continue to work with multiple forwarder partners, and Damco will continue to work with a multitude of different carriers,” he said. “Their business model will not change, and our business model will not change, but the way we can leverage these competencies and create value for our customers will change.”
Maersk Line’s level of integration with APMT will be greater at transshipment terminals where Maersk is the sole or primary user, than at gateway terminals that serve multiple carriers, Clerc said.