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Top Ocean Cargo Carriers Confirm New Cooperative Association

Five container shipping companies on Thursday said they intend to create an association with the purpose of paving the way for digitalization, standardization and interoperability in the container shipping industry.

Information Technology executives from A.P. Moller-Maersk, CMA CGM, Hapag-Lloyd, MSC and Ocean Network Express said in a joint statement that they are discussing the creation of common IT standards that would be openly available and free of charge for all stakeholders of the wider container shipping industry. The announcement confirmed media reports this week of the planned association.

“It’s in the customers’ and all stakeholders’ best interest if container shipping companies operate with a common set of information technology standards,” said André Simha, chief information officer of MSC, acting as a spokesperson for the group. “We are striving for less red tape and better transparency. The timing is right, as emerging technologies create new customer friendly opportunities. Together, we gain traction in delivering technological breakthroughs and services to our customers compared to working in our own closed silos.”

The group’s members identified a need for a neutral and non-profit body for ocean carriers driven by delivering benefits for the industry and its stakeholders, even though the shipping industry already has multiple organizations and associations.

“That is why we will also welcome new members with open arms to join the association,” Simha added.

The group said the association has no plans to develop or operate any digital platform and instead will aim to ensure operational cooperation through standardization. Similarly, the association will not discuss any commercial or operational matters.

“Digital is key for A.P. Moller-Maersk in delivering on our strategy to become an integrated container logistics company that offers simple, end-to-end services with seamless customer experience,” said Adam Banks, A.P. Moller-Maersk’s chief technology and information officer. “A joint set of technical standards will ensure interoperability and enable all parties to concentrate on value-adding differentiation as we move the container shipping industry towards further digitalization. Ultimately, this will benefit all parties in our customers’ supply chains.”

Rajesh Krishnamurthy, executive vice president of IT and transformations at CMA CGM, said, “CMA CGM is always looking for best practices and standards to support the innovation and digital strategy of the company. Being a founding member will enable us to work together on setting the standards for digitization of the entire industry.”

The formation of the association comes after a recent period of consolidation in the ocean carrier sector through mergers and acquisitions, as well as alliances on routes and operations such as blockchain adoption. The group stressed that all ocean carriers are invited to join the association once it is established. The organizers said they plan to begin operating the association in early 2019, subject to applicable regulatory requirements.

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