Jean-Paul Rodrigue (2017), New York:
Routledge, 440 pages.
1. A Global Maritime Shipper
Maersk is an old established company, founded in 1912 in Denmark
by A.P. Moller. It has grown to become the
world’s largest container
shipping line, controlling a capacity above 2 million TEUs. It is likely to be the most globally oriented transport
company, all modes included, since it support large volumes of long
distance trade, has ship and port assets across the world and is also
involved in logistics. The company has been an innovator, developing
new approaches to shipping that have led to its present dominance. The
company has from the very early days focused on general freight, tanker
and shipbuilding. The son of the founder, Maersk-McInney Moller, whose
mother was American, managed the company after the German invasion of
Denmark in 1940, and operated the company from New York. After his father’s
death in 1965 he became CEO and Chairman, the latter position he occupied
until his 90th birthday in 2003. Maersk is still largely under the ownership
of the family trust. As a family business it has been able to respond
quickly to commercial and technological changes that have contributed
to its growth.
The company was relatively late in adopting containerization, its
major activities remaining in general cargo trades on the Pacific, and
oil transport. The company obtained its first cellular ship in 1973.
Thereafter, however, it began a rapid conversion of its fleet, most
of which were new purchases from German and Japanese shipyards. It wasn’t
until 1981 that the first container ships were built by its own yards,
but thereafter it began producing ever larger ships, the owner recognizing
the scale economies they provided. By the late 1980s Maersk shipyards
were building the largest
containerships afloat. The ability of Maersk to build ships itself
enabled it to surprise the rest of the industry with ground-breaking
developments. In 1996, for example, it introduced a
class of ship with a capacity
of 6,000 TEUs that was a breakthrough from the existing post-panamax
ships. This was followed two years later by 8,000 TEU ships, and in
2006 it introduced a vessel
class with a capacity of 14,000 TEUs.
By emphasizing capacities of ships, the shipping line has been the industry
leader, forcing its competitors to follow.
2. Port and Inland Operations
The company was also a leader in reshaping services. The increasingly
nature of the container market, along with the deployment of ever
larger vessels caused Maersk to introduce a hub and spoke service network.
In the late 1980s it established its own hub port at a little-used site
in southern Spain, Algeciras, and quickly made this hub port the largest
in the Mediterranean. Over the years it has progressively established
other hubs, sometimes on greenfield sites, such as Tanjung Pelepas in
Malaysia, frequently in major ports such as New York. From these hubs
local distribution and inter-service transfers are arranged.
In the 1990s, facing increasing costs of providing global coverage,
Maersk like most other major carriers, sought to share expenses by forming
strategic alliances. Maersk joined forces with Sealand, the largest
US carrier. Unlike the other alliances, however, this alliance developed
into closer partnership, and culminated in the acquisition of Sealand
by Maersk in 1999, establishing the company as the largest container
shipping line. This marked a new phase in Maersk’s growth, a growth
maintained by mergers and acquisition. In 1999 it also acquired the
regional carrier Safmarine, and in 2006 it purchased P&O Nedlloyd, the
world’s fourth largest carrier. In 2007 Maersk accounted for 17% of
the world’s container carrying capacity.
Maersk is an excellent example of vertical integration. Not content
to establish itself as the dominant ocean carrier, it sought to progressively
bring more and more of the transport chain under its control as an
source of revenue as well as to better service its ships. It is
an important terminal
operator (APMT), managing container berths for its own ships, as at Algeciras,
but also for other carriers. Its terminal
portfolio is the world's most extensive, covering almost every
major market. It is actively
involved in inland distribution in many markets, with the purchase of
trucking firms and the creation of
chassis pools in the US, operating rail shuttles from Rotterdam, and
managing barge terminals in Germany. In addition, Maersk operates its
own logistics company, providing its clients and others with supply
chain management. In these ways the company is better able to manage
its own traffic and realize profits from other parts of the supply chain.
For a privately owned company from a small European country, Maersk’s
achievements are remarkable.