Shipping giant Maersk launches new air cargo business

By Damian Brett

Maersk B767-300F. Source: AP Moller Maersk

Shipping giant AP Moller Maersk has launched its new air cargo business as it looks to meet customer demand for supply chain security.

The company, which owns the world’s largest container shipping line, said that its new Maersk Air Cargo business will be operational in the second half of the year and will utilise Denmark’s Billund Airport as its main hub and offer daily flights.

The new airfreight company is the result of the existing in-house aircraft operator, Star Air, transferring its activities into Maersk Air Cargo.

Last year, the company announced that it had purchased two new B777 Freighters to be delivered by Boeing in 2024 and leased three B767-300 Freighters which will be operational next year through Cargo Aircraft Management, the leasing arm of ATSG.

The B767 freighters will be utilised on US-China operation the company said.

The company has also announced the order of three additional factory-built B767 freighters, giving it six of the model in total when all are operational.

Maersk’s ambition is to have approximately one third of its annual air tonnage carried within its own controlled freight network.

This will be achieved through a combination of owned and leased aircraft, replicating the structure that the company has within its ocean fleet.

The remaining capacity will be provided by strategic commercial carriers and charter flight operators.

The decision to launch an air cargo business comes as supply chains face continual disruption as a result of Covid lockdowns, port logjams and the Ukraine crisis.

Airfreight has provided some relief to companies looking to move urgent cargo to maintain supply chains.

Aymeric Chandavoine, global head of logistics and services at AP Moller–Maersk, said: “Airfreight is a crucial enabler of flexibility and agility in global supply chains as it allows our customers to tackle time-critical supply chain challenges and provides transport mode options for high value cargo.

“We strongly believe in working closely with our customers. Therefore, it is key for Maersk to also increase our presence in the global air cargo industry by introducing Maersk Air Cargo to cater even better for the needs of our customers.”

Torben Bengtsson, global head of air & less than container load, AP Moller–Maersk, added: “Maersk Air Cargo is an important step of the Maersk Air Freight strategy, as it will allow us to offer customers a truly unique combination of air freight integrated with other transport modes.

“We see an increased and continued demand for air cargo both today and going forward as well as a growing demand for end-to-end logistics, why it is important for us to strengthen our own-controlled capacity and advance further on our air freight strategy.” 

The company said that Maersk Air Cargo also hopes to enter into an agreement with the Flight Personnel Union (FPU) which is a part of the Danish Confederation and Trade Unions (FH).

Jan Hessellund, chief executive of Billund Airport, said: “We have had growth, defied the corona and set a new record year in cargo in 2021. It does not happen without good partners, and we do what we can to make our partners good.

“Now Maersk Air Cargo enters the stage at Billund Airport and raises it a notch. We are incredibly proud that we are being chosen as Maersk’s European hub for air freight, and we look forward to developing the collaboration to even new heights.”

As well as investing in air cargo, the shipping company has also been adding to its forwarder network, recently acquiring Senator International which has a large presence in the air cargo market.

It followed this deal up with the purchase of Pilot Freight Services, another forwarder with a strong presence in air cargo.

Rival shipping line CMA CGM has also launched an air cargo business and became one of the first companies to order Airbus’ recently launched A350 freighter.

Maersk targets air cargo with Senator acquisition and freighter order

Maersk swoops on Pilot to expand US forwarding presence

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Damian Brett

Damian Brett
I have been writing about the freight and logistics industry since 2007 when I joined International Freighting Weekly to cover the shipping sector. After a stint in PR, I have gone on to work for Containerisation International and Lloyds List - where I was editor of container shipping - before joining Air Cargo News in 2015. Contact me on [email protected]