It is essentially a rebranding of Maersk’s existing air cargo business, Star Air, with the significance of the move perhaps being in the name change. Rather than a somewhat peripheral subsidiary like Star Air, the intention seems to make Maersk Air Cargo a core market offering of Maersk Group. As the company states in its press release, “Maersk’s ambition is to have approximately one-third of its annual air tonnage transported within its own controlled cargo network. This will be achieved through a combination of owned and leased aircraft, replicating the structure the company has within its ocean fleet.
The remaining capacity will be provided by strategic commercial carriers and charter flight operators. Certainly the most important line here is to “replicate the structure the company has within its ocean fleet”, suggesting that Maersk aims to become as much an air cargo company as a shipping company.
It is interesting to note that the head of the “Logistics and services” activity of Maersk Group is a former executive of CEVA. He comments that Maersk Logistics and Services sees air freight as “a crucial enabler of flexibility and agility in global supply chains, as it enables our customers to address pressing supply chain challenges and offers transportation mode options for high-value freight”. It is a clear statement that Maersk is aiming for top to top level vertical integration.
Not only that, but Maersk has also presented plans to develop Billund Airport as an ‘air cargo hub’. It is unclear whether it will simply be a base for administration and maintenance, or whether Maersk is considering a hub within a network of air cargo routes. Bearing in mind that Maersk’s shipping operations emphasize network operations, it’s perhaps unsurprising that this is the latter.
Maersk Group has a long-standing interest in air transport, but the creation of Maersk Air Cargo goes beyond that in its implications. This is another important step for Maersk to become a vertically integrated, asset-based, multi-industry logistics provider, where ships are just one asset class.