The leading shipping lines continue their expansion into airfreight, with Maersk announcing on Friday (08/04/22) the creation of a new business called Maersk Air Cargo. This will be a physical aircraft operator that will act as the air freight provider for the logistics operations of the Maersk Group.
Essentially this is a rebranding of Maersk’s existing air freighter business, Star Air, with the significance of the move possibly being in the re-naming. Rather than a somewhat peripheral subsidiary like Star Air, the intention seems to make Maersk Air Cargo a core market offer from Maersk Group. As the company states in its press release, “Maersk’s ambition is to have approximately one-third of its annual air tonnage carried within its own controlled freight network. This will be achieved through a combination of owned and leased aircraft, replicating the structure that the company has within its ocean fleet. The remaining capacity will be provided by strategic commercial carriers and charter flight operators”. Surely the most important line here is “replicating the structure that the company has within its ocean fleet”, suggesting that Maersk aims to become as much of an airfreight company as it is a shipping line.
It is interesting that the head of Maersk Group’s ‘Logistics and Services’ business is a former CEVA executive. He comments that Maersk Logistics and Services views air freight as “a crucial enabler of flexibility and agility in global supply chains as it allows our customers to tackle time-critical supply chain challenges and provides transport mode options for high value cargo”. This is a clear statement that Maersk is aiming for a high- to very high-level of vertical integration.
Not only that, but Maersk has also outlined plans to develop Billund airport as its “air freight hub”. It is unclear if this will just be a base for administration and maintenance, or if Maersk envision a hub within an airfreight route network. Bearing in mind Maersk’s shipping operations emphasise networked operations, it may not be surprising if it is the latter.
Maersk Group has long had an interest in air transport, but the creation of Maersk Air Cargo goes beyond this in its implications. It is another significant step towards Maersk becoming a multi-sector vertically integrated, asset-based logistics provider where ships are just one asset class.
Source: Transport Intelligence, 12th April 2022
Author: Thomas Cullen