Alibaba's Cainiao launches container booking service, cites global cargo woes

FILE PHOTO: Cainiao's logo, Alibaba's logistics unit, is seen at the warehouse in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, China October 26, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Alibaba Group’s Cainiao launched a container booking service for air and sea freight on Thursday, and said the move was in response to a global shortage of shipping containers that had pushed cargo costs to record highs.

The logistics firm that underpins delivery for Alibaba’s e-commerce marketplaces said its service would span over 200 ports in 50 countries, and it would offer 30-40% lower cross-border port-to-port shipping fees versus the average market rate.

A severe container shortage is pinching global export flows, driven by China’s lopsided trade balance - exporting three containers for every one imported recently - and delays in containers returning to China due to the pandemic.

The cost of chartering a 40-foot container from China to the U.S. East Coast jumped more than 80% in December from June, according to Freightos data in Refinitiv Eikon.

“By working closely with airlines and cargo companies, we aim to safeguard the entire cross-border line haul network and instil greater stability into sea and air freight shipping,” James Zhao, General Manager of Cainiao Global Supply Chain, said in a statement.

Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Himani Sarkar