On Tuesday, CMA CGM announced that it has agreed to allow Chinese exporters to book container space on two of its service routes using Alibaba's "OneTouch" cargo booking system.
Alibaba is the world's largest e-commerce platform, and it has long offered foreign companies and consumers the ability to deal directly with manufacturers within China. Until recently, container-load purchases had to be shipped by making arrangements through a freight forwarder or carrier, but with OneTouch, Chinese exporters can bypass the forwarder and arrange shipping directly through Alibaba.
For now, CMA CGM's participation in OneTouch will be limited to container service to the Mediterranean and Adriatic area, using the carrier's MEX1 and BEX routes. "For CMA CGM, it is one step ahead to create added value to its customers and to make the industry meet the digital world," the line said in a statement.
Israeli line Zim signed a similar agreement with Alibaba this week, according to Reuters. Market leader Maersk lines began offering services through OneTouch in December.
Alibaba's OneTouch is similar to Amazon.com's new ocean freight service for Chinese "Fulfillment by Amazon" vendors, who market directly to foreign consumers by staging their goods at Amazon warehouses abroad. Unlike Amazon's offering, OneTouch allows exporters to send their containers to the destination of the customer's choice – not just to a company-owned distribution center.
"Alibaba.com is open to collaborating with logistics firms who want to join our platform which aims to streamline the logistics process for small and medium-sized enterprises," said an Alibaba spokeswoman in a statement to Reuters.
According to Alibaba's OneTouch site, the service is now available for exports from eight ports – Shanghai, Ningbo, Shenzhen, Dalian, Tianjin, Qingdao, Xiamen, Guangzhou. As of Thursday, the booking portal showed about 40 destination options, including major ports like Felixstowe, Chennai, Karachi, Santos, and Vancouver, B.C. While the coverage spans much of the globe, the menu does not appear to offer service for shipments to the United States (for now).