Maersk, CMA CGM, Hapag-Lloyd, MSC and ONE join up for new technology group

 ( Photo: Wikipedia )

(Photo: Wikipedia)

World’s largest container lines plan to look at emerging technologies as new options come to the market.

Five of the largest container ship lines plan to join forces to create new digital standards to be used across the industry.

The association, which is comprised of A.P. Moeller Maersk (Nasdaq OMX: MAERB), CMA CGM, Hapag-Lloyd (XETRA: HLAG), MSC and the Ocean Network Express group of Japanese ocean carriers say their information technology executives aim to create the new technology standards “which shall be openly available and free of charge for all stakeholders of the wider container shipping industry.”

Andre Simha, chief information officer for MSC, says the new association is “in the customers’ and all stakeholders’ best interest.”

“We are striving for less red tape and better transparency,” Simha said.

The new association, which aims to start at the beginning of next year, comes at a time of upheaval as the staid business of container shipping is forced to reckon with shippers that want to book freight as easily as booking a flight on Kayak or Expedia.

Venture capital-backed technology start-ups such as Freightos and New York Shipping Exchange are making it easier than ever to book space on container ships by putting the process online.

Container lines themselves recognize that the process of booking container space can be at times quite painful. In response, companies like Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd are moving to online quotes and rate distribution with the help of firms such as CargoSphere.

The potential for blockchain to also automate broad swathes of the container shipping process is also becoming clearer, with separate initiatives from Maersk and IBM and Ocean Alliance, along with start-up ventures such as CargoX.

Recognizing the plethora of new technology options available, Simha says the new group aims to be a neutral, non-profit trade group that will not develop or operate its own digital platform, but aims to ensure interoperability through standardization.

“The timing is right, as emerging technologies create new customer friendly opportunities,” Simha added.