Groundbreaking online tie-up between Maersk and Alibaba

Container shipping line Maersk has linked with Chinese online service Alibaba to allow Maersk clients to reserve space on its vessels through the e-commerce company. Maersk began offering the service to Chinese shippers on Alibaba’s OneTouch booking website on December 22nd, Maersk said on Wednesday January 4th.

Maersk said this was part of the shipping line’s strategy to provide digitized services for customers and that it plans to launch more pilot programs on third party portals.

OneTouch targets small and medium-sized Chinese exporters with online services such as customs clearance and logistics. Maersk said that the launch of the service was not about bypassing the industry’s freight forwarders, because the OneTouch platform still uses such firms to provide haulage and other services.

Maersk said that the initial launch allowed OneTouch users to lock in the price of required cargo spaces on selected routes by pre-paying a deposit amount, and that the service initially would be offered on selected routes and ports. Currently there are eight Chinese ports, including Shanghai and Ningbo, where the service can be used for voyages to certain ports in Europe and Asia.

Amazon.com has also registered a Chinese business as a freight forwarder.