CMA CGM’s new instant box booking system brings container shipping closer to its ‘Expedia moment’

CMA CGM has followed in the footsteps of Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd, debuting yesterday an online instant box booking system, bringing container shipping one step closer to experiencing its Expedia moment where buying a box transit is as easy as purchasing a flight online.

CMA CGM eSolutions was unveiled on Thursday, described in a release as an entirely digital ecosystem comprising an online agency and other e-commerce channels such as electronic data interchanges (EDIs) and application programming interfaces (APIs) which allow the digital transmission of relevant information and data between CMA CGM and its customers.

A large majority of the CMA CGM Group’s bookings are already made via its e-commerce solutions, among which half are made through the group’s web platform.

“With CMA CGM eSolutions, customers will have the possibility to experience a 100% digital journey when they choose CMA CGM to transport their goods,” the French liner stated yesterday.

Customers can now get real time access to their rates and instant spot quotations, bookings done in one step, as opposed to five previously, eBills of Lading, online container tracking, and online invoice payments.

More features will be launched in the coming months including a focus on insurance products.

CMA CGM has also taken a leaf out of the airlines industry, doing something Hapag-Lloyd and Maersk have toyed with in the past, by offering priority boarding to its customers using its digital platform, allowing them to secure space onboard. First offered by CMA CGM from India to Europe, priority boarding will be gradually offered to other countries and carriers within the CMA CGM group.

The news from Marseille follows other important online box pricing announcements earlier this month from two big freight forwarders. Toll Global Forwarding has just signed a three-year deal with logistics software provider Kontainers while Kuehne + Nagel last week debuted a new full container load product that offers instant pricing for shippers, guaranteed lead time, a 100% money back guarantee, and extended cargo liability.

Commenting on the news, Andy Lane from Sea-Intelligence pointed out electronic bookings are not so new, as can be evidenced from the first sentence on INTTRA’s webpage, which states, “INTTRA was founded in 2001 as a joint venture between CMA CGM, Hamburg Sud, Hapag-Lloyd, Maersk Line, MSC, and UASC to create a standard electronic booking system for the ocean freight industry.”

“What is new is immediate confirmation,” Lane told Splash. “In order to confirm a booking, you need to ensure that space exists across all legs of the transport and that equipment will be available when needed. This has been the tricky part, but clearly some have now overcome that. Auto-bookings, so long as lots of exception handling is not required, will allow minimum staffing in the back-offices. Auto-booking ability will very soon become a must-have instead of a nice-to-have.”

Lane said that now there are three liners capable of accepting and confirming online bookings, “the industry is ready for its Expedia moment”.


Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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