Information technologies are killing the middleman. We have more information than ever before; as a result we see the decline of intermediaries in many areas. Thanks to the Internet, we get access to pools of information that we can assess and compare, so we no longer need travel agents to book our flight tickets or real estate agents to show us the local houses for sale. Buyers and sellers can get in direct contact, avoiding commission to be paid. Good for buyers and sellers, too bad for the middleman. His decline will also change the way freight transport is organised: difficult times ahead for freight forwarders and more possibilities for shipping companies to link directly to consumers.
The maritime transport chain is traditionally opaque, non-transparent and fragmented. Ideal for middlemen, such as freight forwarders and other logistics providers, who make a living taking charge of the arduous task of organising smooth supply chains. But progress is also starting to touch the shipping sector, in the form of better information, data exchange and traceability. Start-ups have been created with the simple idea: if we can book a flight with a few clicks, why not container transport? If we can follow exactly where are the parcels that we sent, why not do the same for containers? Such initiatives will drive what has happened in many other sectors already: the death of the middlemen. Data sharing platforms will give freight forwarders a real good run for their money. What is more, it might lead to better comparability of services, which is good for shippers, but also for shipping companies as it provides a way to improve performance.
The decline of middlemen will also affect shipping in a different way. Maritime cargo transport is almost always business to business. This will change. Just as we no longer need bookstores as we can have books shipped directly, we would not need car dealers, if cars could be ordered online and be delivered at your front door. One could even think of car transport in containers that would facilitate such a development, as it would simplify the land transport leg to the customer. Such a development would change the relation between consumers and cargo transport dramatically. It would require a mind shift of shipping companies. And it might create business opportunities for the middleman of modern times: the App.