CMA CGM is building on its Singapore presence by linking its venture capital arm with that of PSA’s in a partnership aimed at finding startups that will bring strategic value to each group and advance digitalization in the container shipping supply chain.
The ocean carrier’s Ze Box venture capital unit has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with PSA unboXed, the external innovation and corporate venture capital arm of Singapore’s PSA International. It adds to the commercial partnership the two share in the city through the CMA CGM-PSA Lion Terminal joint venture. With four berths, the terminal has a total operating capacity of 4 million TEU.
Rodolphe Saadé, chairman and CEO of the CMA CGM Group, said, “Through this collaboration, we will mentor startups and offer them access to key knowledge and expertise, so that they are well-placed to succeed. This partnership will accelerate our digital strategy to achieve better customer experience and operational efficiency.”
In an increasingly competitive and commoditized industry, this startup seeking partnership is part of a wider strategic shift by terminal operators and ocean carriers towards increasing their value proposition by extending their reach deeper into the supply chain and beyond merely handling or transporting containers.
Tan Chong Meng, group chief executive officer of PSA International said logistics was a team sport, and PSA and CMA CGM had different but complementary strengths in the global supply chain.
“This technological collaboration will add depth and diversity to our respective innovation efforts, as we seek to co-create meaningful and impactful solutions in the face of technological disruptions and changing customer needs,” he said.
A mechanism to test-bed ideas and improve the customer's experience
Under the MOU, Ze Box and PSA unboXed will support the growth of each other’s ecosystem and corporate innovation programs to address industry problems, CMA CGM said in a statement. Both companies will use their experience in shipping and supply chain management to test-bed ideas in search of better customer experience and operational efficiency.
Given the continued oversupply in the container shipping market, product differentiation is key to breaking away from commodity-level returns, according to Steve Saxon, partner at McKinsey & Company Shanghai.
“One way to differentiate the product is to integrate deeper into the landside. Being able to provide priority terminal handling, seamless visibility as it moves onto rail and trucks does meet customers’ needs, and lead to a higher willingness to pay,” he said. “We would expect therefore to see more partnerships, or even vertical integration, between liners and terminals, and liners and logistics companies.”
CMA CGM acquired 25 percent of logistics provider CEVA in April and the carrier believes expanding into land routes with supply chain services is the key to maintaining growth following the consolidation of the container shipping market.
Maersk Group started down this path in 2017 and plans to become a global integrator of container logistics with customers using its online platforms to find prices, arrange all documentation, and pay for shipments in one place. The Danish carrier will use its forwarding arm Damco and terminal operating unit APM Terminals in this one-stop-ship approach.
Cosco Shipping has also been aggressively expanding its landside logistics capabilities, building on Beijing’s Belt and Road strategy to grow its terminal and inland footprint in Asia and Europe. China’s largest shipping company said it had made progress regarding the construction of logistics channels along the Belt and Road route, on the landside and on the ocean route. For instance, 62 percent of its entire container shipping capacity was deployed on the Belt and Road routes, comprising 180 container vessels with a total capacity of 1.15 million TEU.