Shipping, like other modes of transport, is also part of the e-commerce supply chain. However, the extent to which container shipping can benefit from e-commerce trade flows and capture some of the associated gains remains unknown concerning the cross-border e-commerce and the
participation of alternative modes of transport. The speed of air transport favourably positions aviation as a better fit for e-commerce trade, notably for high value and time-sensitive cargo. Nevertheless, ocean shipping is expected to contribute to e-commerce trade and benefit from the transport of other goods and products that rests on the building of inventories near consumption markets. For shipping to tap the trade potential arising from e-commerce, operators need to adapt, leverage technology for greater efficiencies and design integrated supply chain solutions that are e-commerce friendly. Adaptation and planning for change are essential for shipping to remain a relevant market player. In this respect, concerns have recently been raised over the potential for e-retailers to displace traditionally players such as liner shipping operators. While these concerns have generally been downplayed, shipping lines recognize the potential risks and seem to be adapting their business models to account for these emerging trends, including by leveraging technology and digitalization to ensure efficiency gains and capture market share.
Technological changes in the autonomous ships, drones and various blockchain applications, hold considerable promise for the supply side of shipping. However, there is still uncertainty within the maritime industry regarding possible safety, security and cybersecurity incidents, as well as concern about negative effects on the jobs of seafarers, most of which come from developing countries. While the development and use of autonomous ships offer numerous benefits, it is still unclear whether this new technology will be fully accepted by Governments, and particularly by the traditionally conservative maritime industry. There are legitimate concerns about the safety and security of operation of autonomous ships and their reliability. The diminishing role of seafarers and ensuing job loss are a particular concern. At present, many blockchain technology initiatives and partnerships have the potential to be used for tracking cargo and providing end-to-end supply chain visibility; Many technological advances in ports and terminals leads to greater efficiency, enhanced productivity, greater safety and heightened environmental protection. As such ports and terminals worldwide have to prepare to effectively embrace and leverage digitalization-driven innovations and technologies.