LONDON – Danish logistics and shipping giant Maersk (DXE: MAERB) has ordered three new 767-300 freighters from Boeing and has agreed with Amerijet International (M6, Fort Lauderdale Int’l) to deploy them on trans-Pacific (Asia and North America) routes later this year.
The company’s air cargo division is moving to gain a strategic foothold in the U.S. market. The Danish group is trying to identify and acquire an airport hub for its shipping areas on the US air cargo market. “Maersk will receive the three 767 all-cargo jets from the Boeing facility in Everett, Washington in 2022,” spokesman for the Danish giant, Povl Rasmussen, said in a statement.
“As previously announced, AP Moller – Maersk is strengthening and expanding its air cargo offering. “Air freight is a crucial factor for the flexibility and agility of global supply chains, as it allows our customers to tackle time-consuming supply chain challenges and provides transport mode options for high value cargo.”
“Maersk’s owned controlled capacity is designed to make supply chain journeys more resilient and intuitive. When deployed later this year, [the three] new 767 aircraft will be based in the U.S. and operated by Amerijet exclusively for Maersk,” he added.
During the past eight months, Maersk has poured resources from its hyper-profitable container line business into transforming the in-house airline into a full-service air logistics provider and expanding globally beyond its traditional sphere in Europe.
Tested for another customer
Boeing (NYSE: BA) has never publicly announced the sale of the 767s to Maersk or placed it on the public order list. The planes were originally intended for another customer that backed out of the order. That explains how Maersk got its hands on the freighters so quickly instead of waiting in line for production slots.
Moreover, since the end of March, Boeing has conducted test flights on two of the aircraft now destined for the Danish global carrier. The aircraft have not yet been painted with the Maersk insignia, but are recommended to the lens of passionate photographers during tests at Paine Field, north of Seattle.
One of the aircraft was scheduled to depart Paine Field for Miami, Amerijet’s home base, on last Friday at 10:10 a.m. PST, according to flight-tracking site Flightradar24.
From ocean to major cargo airline
The Amerijet deal represents Maersk’s second initiative to access the U.S. market. It recently entered a long-term lease with Wilmington, Ohio-based Air Transport Services Group (NASDAQ: ATSG) for three 767-300 converted freighters and is expected to begin operating them on key U.S.-China routes in the final quarter of this year.
The Danish shipping line is making air cargo a central part of its value proposition to large customers after mostly operating existing in-house cargo carrier Star Air since 1987 as a contract carrier for parcel-delivery companies.
Earlier this year, the world’s second-largest ocean freight carrier renamed the Star Air subsidiary Maersk Air Cargo as part of a broad effort to prioritize integrated logistics offerings and sell air cargo services directly to customers under a single brand.
Air cargo fits with Maersk’s transformation from a pure ocean carrier to an end-to-end logistics company able to provide a suite of services and keep more of key customers’ transportation spending for itself.
Depending on budget, distance, time requirements and supply chain disruptions, Maersk, the second-largest container vessel operator in the world by capacity, can move goods by ocean, air, truck and rail, and provide warehousing and customs clearance. It also is investing in e-commerce delivery.
A major reorganization underway is that Maersk Air Cargo will move its air cargo hub from Copenhagen to Denmark’s second largest airport, Billund. Maersk recently finalized the acquisition of the German freight forwarder Senator International for $644 million.
Senator’s core business is managing airfreight transportation for cargo owners. It has a significant air charter network with approximately 20 weekly all-cargo flights operated by contract carriers such as Magma Aviation.
The Danish giant late last year also ordered two factory-built 777 freighters, which can carry even larger loads and fly farther than 767 medium widebody aircraft.
Maersk Air Cargo operates 15 Boeing 767 freighters, twelve B767-200(F)s (five -ERBDSFs, six -PCs, and one -SF) and three B767-300Fs (one -ERBDSF and two Fs) that are still on the Star Air (Denmark) (DJ, Copenhagen Kastrup) AOC.
Most of these have been converted from passenger aircraft, for customers such as UPS (NYSE: UPS) and Royal Mail in the UK. These operations are based at the UPS’ hub in Cologne, Germany, and East Midlands Airport in the UK.
Amerijet goes global
The Maersk partnership also represents a major milestone for Amerijet, a mid-tier cargo airline who is also in the midst of a major transformation with international ambitions, with its hub at Miami International Airport, mostly known for regional scheduled service covering the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico and parts of South America.
The partnership will launch Amerijet into the massive Asia trade market for the first time. In 2020, the airline launched twice weekly trans-Atlantic flights to Brussels.
Amerijet also has a contract with the U.S. Postal Service to fly mail across the country and operates a flight three times per week from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to Liege, Belgium, and on to Tel Aviv, Israel.
In a March interview, new CEO Tim Strauss said the privately-held company was exploring the possibility of offering service between Asia and North America as soon as this summer.
Amerijet currently operates five B767-200(BDSF)s for DHL Express on a CMI basis as well. The Floridian carrier’s fleet also includes one B767-200(SF) as well as six B757-200(PCF)s and eight B767-300(ERBDSF)s, all added in recent months.