Lines on a ‘differentiation’ mission

Commoditisation of the container shipping industry could be about change as carriers adopt new strategies to differentiate themselves from the pack.

According to Drewry Maritime Consultants, in an age of large-scale vessel sharing agreements when lines are all aboard the same ship, carriers have only really been able to compete on price.

“It has often been hard to distinguish one carrier from another with few observable unique selling points aside from obvious regional affiliations and size,” says Drewry, which sees three main types of strategy being presented by lines at the moment. “They indicate that a company either wants to break free from its traditional confines of port-to-port services and expand its reach into other links in the supply chain, or consolidate its core sea product, or finally enhance its liner scale. Each approach has its own risks, but if the seekers of global supply chain integration are successful the future liner playing field will be far from level.”

Maersk Line has been outspoken about its strategic ambitions. Drewry quotes Maersk CEO Soren Skou:  “We are building a company that is a global integrator of container logistics – a company very similar to UPS and FedEx and I hope they will be considered peers of ours when we are done with this transformation journey in three to five years; a network-based, asset-based global logistics company…”

According to the consultants, digitisation and automation of basic logistics transaction tasks have provided opportunities that did not previously exist.

 “Ultimately, the aim is to get closer to the cargo owners as the single provider for all their transportation needs. It’s not clear how appealing this will be and if shippers will baulk at the potentially restricted choice and dominance afforded to the new supply chain kings.”

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