Foto 31845691 © Christin Millhill Dreamstime.com
© Christin Millhill Dreamstime.com

Expectations that one of the world’s major container carriers will not offer services to some customers including some freight forwarders could be seen as an abuse of its dominant market position and a denial of service, says freight forwarder association Clecat.

Clecat director general Nicolette van der Jagt told The Loadstar shipping lines were already denying services to forwarders in some ways, which seemed a form of discrimination.

“The [ocean] alliances’ market share is very large; it is a concentrated market now [and] they have market power,” she said.

“I wonder to what extent this is an abuse of their dominant position? We will look at it and see if we can challenge this with the European Commission.”

According to Clecat, Maersk is entering the freight forwarding market from a position of dominance. Ms van der Jagt said her members had reported for some time that carriers were insisting on forwarders agreeing to carrier haulage as a condition of accepting cargo – a situation first reported by The Loadstar following complaints from Australian forwarders.

Forwarders in Australia, and now in Europe, fear carriers are forcing them to hand over commercially sensitive information on their customers before they can access the shipping lines’ services, giving the carriers vital information which could later be used by the lines to move cargo directly.

“This is a trend to get all the business door-to-door, putting others out of business, and it raises the question again – is this an abuse of their dominant position?” asked Ms van der Jagt.

Maersk has denied that it is targeting forwarders, with a spokesperson telling The Loadstar: “The company [Maersk] is continuously developing solutions for the current tough market situation, for forwarders as well as other users.”

The spokesperson added that Maersk is currently negotiating contracts with customers and is aware that it cannot offer space to all those that need it. As a result Maersk is giving a greater priority to those that will take door-to-door or will use more of Maersk’s integrated services.

Freight forwarders around the world have reacted to the news that Maersk is likely to prevent forwarders loading cargo out of Asia to Europe and the US.

Robert Barceló, senior manager, business development at Port Everglades, said: “Florida, home to over 1,000 freight forwarders and NVOs, is not particularly rich in BCO’s. It has long been a market dominated by freight forwarders. Alienating such a key sector could have dire effects, especially in the Latin American markets.”

Elton Tan, of EFM Global, had a broader perspective: “Shipping services are just part of one chain of the entire logistical and supply chain management. Shippers will continue to use freight forwarders because forwarders are mostly nimble; we form our own network of offices around the world to provide tailor-made, customised services for each shipper or consignee.

“That position cannot be undermined simply because the carriers want to cut the cake and eat it as well.”

According to Mr Tan, his clients tell him that dealing with carriers the size of Maersk and CMA CGM is “like dealing with an automated machine that has no intelligence”. They say carriers will succeed with larger shippers, but small and medium-sized customers will always prefer an intermediary.

Mr Tan added: “My personal experiences with handling bookings through CMA and Maersk is a very telling sign why my shippers and consignees will never depend solely on liners that offer full freight forwarding services.

“The freight forwarding community around the world has always been the ‘unpaid salesman’ for carriers. They are hoping their systems will be the ‘salesman’ and businesses will just flow in, but it’s just wishful thinking.”

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  • Ronny De Roeck

    October 22, 2021 at 3:26 pm

    Today it is Maersk, after they’ve integrated their forwarding entity Damco, tomorrow it might (?) be CMA CGM with the integration of Ceva Logistics and of course it is an abuse of a dominant position in these cases.

  • Gert Janssens

    October 22, 2021 at 3:27 pm

    For short sea roro, between UK and the continent, I advice to use smaller carrier such as CLDN. There you are not treated as a number, but you get a much more personal service. They offer multimodal transport. You can use only their carrier services, or door2door.

  • Trevor Heaver

    October 22, 2021 at 7:31 pm

    How does the common carrier principle play out for liner shipping?

  • Rayomand Balsara

    October 23, 2021 at 3:47 pm

    So this move by Maersk is so typical of them. But would love to see howthey manage the show allby themselves a country like India where even the largest exporters expect freight funding and extraordinary services at a very negligible margin for the forwarder coupled with the risk of bad debts. I am waiting for them to make such a stupid move…

  • Gerardo Hernandez

    October 28, 2021 at 2:44 am

    An arrogant idea of Maersk and CMA….not a new thing that carriers want to go for the freight forwarder market, but a crucial big strategic mistake, Freight forwarder is not just a “middle man” to him away, they are offering real value added to his clients, then if we consider this as 2 different jobs and try to do all toghether you are not focusing in what you do best as a shipping line wich is operate! Good luck Maersk