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Carriers CMA CGM and Zim Join Alibaba

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Two container shipping lines, France's CMA CGM and Israel's Zim, have signed up with Alibaba to allow customers to book space on their vessels through the Chinese e-commerce giant, reported Reuters.

CMA CGM said in a statement that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Alibaba to begin cooperating on the OneTouch platform for routes such as Qingdao to Barcelona or Ningbo to Venice.

OneTouch was acquired by Alibaba in 2010 and targets small and medium-sized Chinese exporters with online services such as customs clearance and logistics.

The move towards e-commerce by carriers is in a bid to boost sales as the sector battles the worst downturn in history, which today (February 17, 2017) finally claimed Hanjin Shipping after it filed for bankruptcy in 2016.

The sale of Hanjin’s assets has added to a glut of containerships and weaker demand for vessels has meant several measures such as vessel-sharing arrangements, mergers and acquisitions.

A growing number of logistics firms are going online to buoy their business, which saw the world’s largest container shipping line, Maersk, combine with Alibaba in December 2016 for a new and innovative online system that will allow shippers to book space on vessels.

Shippers traditionally use freight forwarders to book space for cargo on container vessels.

This is now changing as more liners are allowing cargo owners to book through the internet.

E-commerce companies are also venturing into logistics to try to gain better control over their supply chain networks.

An Alibaba spokesperson told Reuters: “Alibaba.com is open to collaborating with logistics firms who want to join our platform which aims to streamline the logistics process for small and medium-sized enterprises and empower them to seize cross-border trade opportunities.”

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