MSC blocktrain

Not by the sea alone: new niches for shipping lines

2021/04/23 at 8:52 AM

Increasing competition is forcing the key players of the shipping industry to develop not only their sea connections. As a result, the world’s largest shipping lines have entered new markets such as rail freight, e-commerce or even aviation.

Five years ago somewhat of a revolution started in the shipping industry. It was the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) that became the first global shipping line to offer the rail-sea solution, which was devoted to the customers exporting goods from Jinhua via Ningbo. This year this service was extended into the regular container train.

A year later another shipping line, Maersk, continued the revolution by launching its first intercontinental rail service from China to Europe. As of today, more and more shipping giants are launching their rail connections and even are entering brand new markets, which are much far beyond the sea.

“Railisation” of the shipping lines

Currently, Maersk has a well-developed network of rail connections. Since the beginning of the pandemic, it launched several new intercontinental rail services including those from Xi’an to Izmit, from Nakhodka to Saint Petersburg, from Xi’an to Tbilisi. The Danish company offers three options for its customers: to book the entire container train, which is dedicated only to one customer, to load a single rail container (FCL) or its part (LCL).

In January 2021 another shipping line announced three train connections. It was Hapag-Lloyd that expanded its stance in the Ukrainian market. In a partnership with NUNIT, a dedicated subsidiary of the largest private terminal operator in Ukraine, TransInvestService (TIS), the German company linked the port city of Odesa to the main Ukrainian industrial locations of Kharkiv, Dnipro and Kyiv. Hapag-Lloyd plans is considering new links to start in the future.

CMA CGM Air Cargo plane, source: CMA CGM
CMA CGM Air Cargo aircraft

Diving deeper into e-commerce

Last month, Maersk started a partnership with Retailo, the fastest-growing B2B e-commerce platform in the MENAP region. Within the framework of cooperation, the shipping line is going to provide Retailo with a dedicated warehouse solution in Karachi, Pakistan. Thus, MSC will expand its footprint by helping Retailo to scale its business.

Up into the sky

Aviation currently looks the most unusual business for the shipping lines. But it didn’t stop CMA CGM which created an air cargo division and started transatlantic services in 2021. On March, 8 CMA CGM Air Cargo’s first Airbus A330-200F began regular commercial operations from Liege in Belgium to Chicago in the U.S. Later it was joined by a second aircraft and two new routes, between Liege, New York and Atlanta. In total, 10 flights a week are operated between Belgium and the United States. The company’s freight division is deploying four Airbus A330, with two already in operation.

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