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Maersk has invested A$1.4m (US$1m) in Australian trucking start-up Ofload.

Launched in February, the Sydney-based digital road freight platform tackles inefficient empty container moves and idle time by live-matching cargo owners with small to medium-size transport operators.

Ofload said it had seen good traction among SME truckers looking to compete against industry heavyweights, with 700 carriers on the platform operating a combined fleet of 15,000 trucks nationwide.

For example, BeCool, the last-mile logistics arm of HelloFresh, said it had used Ofload since day one.

Geoffroy Henry, co-founder and CEO of Ofload, said: “Fundamental issues, such as incredible amounts of waste, increased overheads and a legacy power imbalance, are holding back Australia’s road freight and shipping industries at a time where efficiency is absolutely key.

“Ultimately, transport companies want to reduce these inefficiencies and create a more sustainable industry.”

For its part, in recent years Maersk has invested in a string of tech start-ups throughout the logistics chain, pursuing its strategy of becoming a global integrator of container logistics, which includes a target of half of all earnings coming from inland logistics.

In India, for example, the Danish shipping giant partnered with established road freight player Blackbuck to enter the market, and in October 2018 invested $21.6m in New York-based digital freight broker Loadsmart.

Jeppe Høier, venture partner at Maersk Growth, said: “We have monitored this space for years and invested in teams around the world, succeeding in bringing shippers and carriers into the digital world. All supply chain stakeholders will benefit from Ofload’s technology, not least shippers looking to reduce their carbon footprint, as empty truck moves will be optimised.”

In Australia, a recent study by Transport for New South Wales found that inefficiency and delay in empty container management was costing the economy more than A$49m every year.

According to the Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA), the issue has been increasingly under the spotlight in recent weeks following increased congestion and access fee issues at empty container parks (ECPs) in Sydney.

“ECP access pricing is skyrocketing, and the cost of managing empty containers through the supply chain is also increasing,” said CTAA director Neil Chambers. “Landside logistics operators bear the initial brunt of these increases and, ultimately, they impact import and export supply chain competitiveness.”

Mr Chambers said a major cause of congestion had been a reduction in full exports and empty exports repositioned by shipping lines relative to import discharges.

“An analysis by NSW Ports identified an imbalance of over 30,000 teu between full and empty exports and imports between April and June,” explained Mr Chambers. “Several factors have contributed to this, including weather disruption, berth congestion from vessel bunching, vessel rotation changes and stevedore industrial action.”

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