E-Commerce – Changing the Face of the Forwarding Industry?

Will many of the world’s air freight airlines be forced to consider a faster move over to accommodating the e-commerce market in the near future.
There has been much discussion by carriers on this subject during the past couple of years. But are the traditional air cargo carriers really aware of the consequences for them when today’s two big -commerce players go out and “do it all on their own?”   
Some, especially integrators, sat up sharply when the now famous Ama-zon / ATSG Boeing 767F deal came onto the table little while back.

Is Amazon heading to be world’s No. 1 cargo carrier?
If one is to believe all the figures and rumors floating around - then yes!
The e-commerce market is nothing new anymore but one where airlines may be missing the boat in taking part in this lucrative and non-stoppable new selling and buying power.

There are two very large players now in the e-commerce battle for market share.
Amazon, based in the USA and Alibaba which more or less controls the complete Chi-nese market.
Both companies are busy in their own way in continuing to ensure they themselves con-trol the e-commerce business totally in the future.

Does this leave much room for other airlines to participate?
The days are long gone where producers of electronics, mobile phones and garments receive large stock orders, which were taken by air or ocean to storage warehouses in Europe and North America.
Now it’s mostly online orders from the public directly to the Amazons and Alibabas of this world which are shipped via air or ocean freight to the end consumer.
Both Alibaba and Amazon have long since noted themselves that they would be in far better control if they themselves were to be the actual supply chain.
In other words: transport it themselves and deliver themselves.

Everything from a single source
This process is already in motion and Amazon’s recent order for up to twenty Boeing 767-300 freighters should come as no surprise.
Admittedly, the Amazon B767 acquisition is geared towards the U.S. domestic market.
but how long will it take them to extend it into the European arena in the near future.
On first sight it seems that the present integrators, UPS, DHL, FedEx, may well be the losers here as their part of the small parcels business may dwindle.
But, international carriers, specifically all cargo airlines also run the risk of losing out as more and more commodities are added to the e-commerce package and ordered directly by the end consumer.

Alibaba relies on airline partners
Alibaba seems to be going about it in a somewhat different way, with the end effect being the same.
They are teaming up with Chinese freight carriers such as SF Express, Zhontong Courier and Shentong Express so that inner China distribution can be faster.
Alibaba has also decided that because they do not have an own overnight service which covers the whole of China, that they are creating a sort of open to all logistics platform under the heading of China Smart Logistics. Here, the above mentioned airlines play a leading role.

How long will it take until both concerns spread their present regional transport plans into other areas, being Europe for Amazon and the USA for Alibaba.
If they can close this gap and ensure transport from A to Z is in their own hands, then this could be bad news for the traditional airfreight market as we presently know it.
That is - unless airlines can join forces with this new movement.

First freighters followed by vessels
Amazon and Alibaba are serious about taking things into their own hands.
Air transport Services Group (ATSG) which will operate the 20 B767 freighters on behalf of Amazon announced that they are considering Amazon’s request to take up to 20 percent of ATSG’s common shares in the near future. The first 10 percent could be in Amazon’s books as early as July this year.
The news hit the street at the end of last week that Amazon has plans to invest huge amounts into acquiring their own ocean container ships.

Closing the gap!

John Mc Donagh

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