The marriage between CMA CGM’s air cargo division and Air France-KLM-Martinair Cargo is apparently entering another stage towards full consummation, but the eventual picture is not yet quite clear. The parties involved remain reticent.
Approached by CargoForwarder Global, asked about an update on their upcoming tie with AF-KLM-MP, the press office of the Marseilles-headquartered shipping line CMA-CGM only sent the press release dated 18MAY22, which was already extensively covered in our publication, and some other media.
In Amsterdam, Air France-KLM-Martinair Cargo has said that the inquisitiveness concerning its intended collaboration with CMA CGM is quite understandable but adds that “everything that is currently written in this respect is entirely speculative. CMA CGM and Air France-KLM-Martinair Cargo have agreed not to disseminate any further information for the time being, as the stage in which we are now, does not allow this yet.”
So far, nothing has been said about the continuation of CMA CGM’s present collaboration with Air Belgium’s cargo division. The move of the operation from Liege Airport to Paris CDG last June may well be proof to the contrary.
Catching up with the integrators
CMA CGM is the world’s third-largest maritime company, after Switzerland-based MSC, and the Danish A.P. Møller-Mærsk Group. The latter, too, set up its own air cargo business this April, supported by its take-over of German Senator International.
Observers have pointed out that the rapprochement of the shipowners towards air cargo, two distant worlds that would hardly meet in the past, may be a move towards one-stop-shopping and/or integrated solutions, offering customers tailored multimodal services, door-to-door.
From a media point of view, the way the rapprochement between CMA CGM and AF-KLM-MP Cargo is communicated, or rather not communicated, is yet another example of the Franco-Dutch cargo airline's “media restraint”. Certainly, in the case of emerging collaborations or even mergers, details must remain confidential until the deal is finalized. That is customary and understandable. In this case, however, the whistle has been blowing for weeks that both sides are heading for a shoulder-to-shoulder partnership. To then react like the well-known three Japanese monkeys, covering their mouth, ears, and nose with their hands in order to avoid seeing, hearing, or speaking evil, is actually unworthy of such a proud and successful cargo airline like AF-KLM-MP.
As to the intended marriage with CMA CGM, it would be interesting to know what role general sales agent ECS will be playing in future, if any. So far, the Paris-based commercial heavyweight has been successfully selling those freighter capacities of CMA CGM Air Cargo not utilized by the shipping line’s subsidiary, CEVA Logistics. Will this remain the case when AF-KLM-MP Cargo takes over sales activities, or will ECS be pushed out of the deal completely? Unfortunately, the freight carrier provides no answer to this question.
Nor does AF-KLM-MP Cargo shed light on other issues tabled by media people. For instance, how CMA CGM Air Cargo's fleet fits into its own route policy and network strategy, or what effect the upcoming partnership might have for Amsterdam Schiphol since the box liner’s freighters will all be based in Paris CDG. And do both players speak the same digital language? Customers might be interested to know.
Looking back, it must be noted that AF-KLM-MP's communications policy has increasingly dried out over the years. At least compared to the time following the merger of the two companies. There was an annual press conference, alternating between Paris and Amsterdam, at which journalists were informed in detail about the development of the cargo business, future priorities, fleet and route policy issues, and product strategy. When the first B777F joined the AF Cargo fleet, the press was invited to CDG to take part, and prominent personalities such as Michael Wisbrun, Marc Boudier, and Pascal Morvan, to name just three leading representatives, were always available to speak to or answer questions brought up by journalists.
Today, only bold press releases are distributed in the hope that the media will print and distribute the contents uncritically, preferably copied and pasted. Unfortunately, some media companies are eager to play this game in order to achieve a top position in Google announcements. SkyTeam Cargo initiatives, formerly a favorite subject embraced by the member airlines of SkyTeam Cargo, are no longer part of the communications strategy of AF-KLM-MP.
In a nutshell: pro-active media work has been a foreign word at the Franco Dutch cargo carrier for years.
No wonder that with such a reactive “bunker mentality” the names of the managers responsible for the cargo business are largely unknown to media representatives. They exist, but they do not communicate, or at least at a very low profile. This is regrettable, since the proud and well reputed cargo airline AF-KLM-MP would certainly have a lot to say to the press and thus to the interested public.
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