The Danish shipping firm Maersk has teamed up with the US tech giant IBM to start a new company that will aim to create a new dominant platform in the transport industry.
The new company, which has yet to be named, will be located in New York and tasked with developing a platform that is expected to be the cornerstone of future world trade. The move could potentially impact Maersk in the same way as investment in container ships did in the 1970s.
The target of the new platform is to have a mutual ecosystem for transport, as Facebook is to social contact and Amazon is to retail.
“This new company marks a milestone in our strategic efforts to drive the digitalisation of global trade. The potential of offering a neutral, open digital platform for safe and easy ways of exchanging information is huge, and all players across the supply chain stand to benefit,” said Vincent Clerc, the commercial head of Maersk Line.
The new company is the next step following the new Maersk strategy that entailed streamlining the company and divesting its oil assets.
Big guns signing on
The new platform’s potential is immense. Every year, goods worth almost 25 trillion kroner are transported around the world and the shipping industry accounts for 80 percent of that, according to numbers from the World Shipping Council.
However, the big challenge is that upwards of 20 percent of the expenses associated with shipping goods are spent on stamps, signatures, written communication and other items that don’t have anything to do with transportation of the goods.
“The way the logistical chain operates today is incredibly inefficient. The right people don’t have access to the right information at the right time. There are lots of digital initiatives in the industry, but that collective digital infrastructure, which everyone can use, is lacking,” Lars Jensen, the founder of the analysis firm Seaintel, told Berlingske.
As of now, a number of big companies, including General Motors and Proctor & Gamble, have signed on and a number of Maersk’s competitors, harbour companies, freight forwarders and key authorities in the US and China have also shown interest in the plan.
Right now, Maersk and IBM are testing the system and, pending approval from the competition authorities, customers will be able to join the platform within the next few months.