SHIPPING colossus Maersk has signed a deal with Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba to enable customers to reserve space on its vessels online.
From December 22 Maersk’s Chinese shipping customers could reserve vessel space for their shipping containers on Alibaba’s OneTouch booking website.
Normally shippers do this via freight forwarders, but this new service allows them to do it independently on the Internet.
Alibaba has been trying to grow its logistic services industry in recent years taking stakes in courier services and buying warehouses.
The online company acquired OneTouch in 2010. It targets small and medium-sized Chinese exporters with online services such as logistics and customs clearance. It also allows them to book air freight and parcel delivery services.
This is part of a trend for e-commerce websites wanting to venture into logistics to better manage and gain control over their supply chain networks.
Amazon.com has also registered a Chinese business as a freight forwarder, and has leased aircraft to handle more of its own deliveries in the United States.
In-turn companies such as Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping line and a unit of Denmark’s A.P. Moller-Maersk, are teaming up with online service providers to streamline their operations for customers.
A company spokesperson, speaking to Reuters, said of the partnership: “The initial launch… allows existing Alibaba OneTouch (registered) users to lock in the price of required cargo spaces on selected routes by pre-paying a deposit amount,” the Maersk spokeswoman said.
According to the OneTouch website, the serves is currently offered on routes from eight Chinese ports, including Shanghai and Ningbo, to ports in Europe and Asia, according to the OneTouch website.