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Closer – and more public – ties between forwarders and carriers are becoming increasingly acceptable to shippers, as the latest move by Maersk indicates.

It is nailing its colours to the mast by re-branding digital forwarder Twill as a Maersk company, rather than via its subsidiary Damco brand.

The shipping line hopes to attract more SME shippers, as the Maersk brand is more widely recognised than Damco.

Maersk said the move was in line with the “AP Moller-Maersk strategy to become a global integrator of container logistics, offering end-to-end solutions” within three to five years.

Twill was launched in April last year as a ‘Damco innovation’. While its operations will continue to be handled by Damco, it has now become a ‘Maersk innovation’ instead.

Troels Stovring, CEO of Twill, said: “The Twill mission is to make shipping simple – as easy as booking airline tickets, a taxi or hotel – and we are just at the beginning of an exciting journey.

“To reach that vision it is critical for us to reach a wider market. The Maersk brand is highly recognised and leveraging that awareness will be of significant strategic advantage to us,” he added.

The move follows other strengthening ties between forwarders and carriers, notably CMA CGM’s acquisition of 25% of Ceva Logistics.

In its latest Global Freight Forwarding report, Transport Intelligence notes this “strategic trend”, which in air freight has seen express parcel operators try to claim some of the freight forwarding market.

It added: “Shipping lines too have sought to capture the upstream and downstream spend of their clients by establishing forwarding units: Damco (Maersk) and Yusen (NYK) are cases in point.”

And now, Maersk is doing it more publicly, suggesting that SME shippers are less concerned about working with a carrier-owned forwarder than perhaps they had been previously.

Maersk insisted in a statement that Twill would continue to offer independent advice as a multi-carrier platform. It said Twill “will continue to freely choose between ocean carriers to provide customers with the best and most relevant solution”.

Vincent Clerc, chief commercial officer of Maersk, added: “With Twill we are offering small and medium-sized companies a simple and easy way of shipping their goods, providing them better control of their supply chains.”

When asked what impact the change might have on Damco, or whether it too would take on Maersk’s branding, a spokesperson told The Loadstar: “Damco is a well embedded and crucial asset in Maersks vision, and we look forward to jointly reach our vision.”

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