Peggy Hollinger (Inside business, December 30) quotes a Maersk IT manager as suggesting that Maersk, responsible for nearly 17 percent of the world’s container shipments, “[is] now a technology company where we have some physical devices that we need to move around ”. The “sea captains” rightly disagree. After all, 78 percent of the group’s income is earned by the maritime unit.
Maersk undoubtedly spends significant sums to develop and maintain computer information systems to provide logistics services and products to shippers, captains and network planners to help everyone optimize their respective tasks. If these information services and products are mainly used within Maersk to optimize the company’s transport network, it forms input in its downstream final output which is currently mainly transport “services”. Only if the revenue from direct sales of Maersk technology services and products to non-Maersk customers significantly exceeded the earnings of a maritime unit would Maersk be a technology company.
But that goal may not even be worth pursuing. After all, technology is “knowledge of how to produce”, and any new knowledge developed by Maersk could very well be worth more to the company than input into its own downstream shipping activities than from direct sales to others.
This will make Maersk a producer of knowledge-intensive transport services and products, but still not a technology company.
Associate Professor of International Economics, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University
Medford, MA, USA