Maersk Line CEO Eivind Kolding wants to start the debate. His appearance at the Terminal Operations Europe Conference in Antwerp, Belgium (TOC) was aimed at changing the paradigm of yesterday. If container shipping is to assure itself of a licence to operate in the future, the industry needs to change now. No more battles on rates; instead, shipping lines should be giving customers what they really want.
Change is in our DNA Containerisation revolutionised world trade. Almost overnight, the entire industry had to rethink global transportation logistics — but the potential that it unlocked — enabled both shipping lines and their customers to develop their businesses in ways that seemed impossible just a few years before.
Why the need to change now? Container shipping has an established way of doing things, but too often it is a model that disappoints customers: one in every two containers is late, shipping lines are a nightmare of complexity and the industry as a whole creates more pollution than Germany.
However, the world needs container shipping so the rules of the market economy — constant operational change to meet changing customer needs — do not apply to the shipping industry, right?
Wrong. And if this is not recognised, as Maersk Line CEO Eivind Kolding told the conference attendees, those that “stop listening to the market because they think their methods and products are too established to fail … will fail.”
Lessons to learn Look at Apple: over the last ten years, the company has twice given customers what they wanted before they knew they even wanted it and, in the process, has stolen the personal music player and mobile phone markets from established yet totally unprepared industry players.
What can container shipping learn from this? Maersk Line CEO Eivind Kolding said that when an industry is established, it may only be a “few years from being completely overtaken” by new technology. And, that market and customer behaviour is forcing companies to “never lose sight” of what customers really want — including the needs that they are not even aware of.
Fantastic opportunities Maersk Line has identified the three areas that it believes will satisfy future customer demands — unmatched reliability, ease of business, best environmental performance — so even though we face some fundamental challenges why not see these as fantastic opportunities?
That was Maersk Line CEO Eivind Kolding’s message to the conference, but is the industry as a whole prepared to deliver? Eivind Kolding’s provocation at the conference is expected to start the discussion.
All stakeholders are invited to join and scepticism is also welcome. However, the point is to make it clear where Maersk Line, as industry leader, believes the future lies for container shipping. This will cement its leadership position and create a burning platform for Maersk Line to return to.
Eivind Kolding’s challenge to container shipping:
What if we could guarantee that cargo would be on time, every time?
What if placing a shipping order was as easy as buying an airline ticket?
What if the shipping industry was known for beating environmental expectations — not struggling to meet them?