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Lead companies

Building power in the world’s dominant corporations

Multinational operators are highly influential across the transport industry. Logistics, shipping, and ports are all dominated by a handful of key players. In aviation and urban transport, aggressive multinational firms are growing fast. Sometimes it is firms outside the industry that really set terms and conditions for transport workers, such as big retailers in the case of trucking.

As the technologies and structure of the global economy change so too will the hierarchy of multinational transport companies. The ITF has identified some of the leading companies we think will shape the future of the industry. There are 4 companies that operate at global level in the logistics sector, Deutsche Post DHL, Fedex, UPS and XPO.

Deutsche Post DHL is the world’s largest logistics provider. It operates in 220 countries and has substantial networks in parcels, express, contract logistics, and freight forwarding. Deutsche Post DHL is focusing on key growth areas for the sector, such as e-commerce services, and also geographic shift countries such as India and China.

Clients, such as major retailers, have a major impact on the logistics sector. In many scenarios, it is ultimately clients who are responsible for creating the competitive pressures that drive down labour standards.

The emergence of e-commerce firms such Amazon is an important example of how power relations with clients are shifting.  These companies may have necessary capital needed to increasingly manage their own logistics operations. For example, in 2014, Amazon added 21 new logistics facilities to its global network, bringing the total to 173 worldwide. Amazon’s distribution and logistics are increasingly managed by its in-house subsidiary, Amazon Transport & Logistics (ATL). Also, Amazon has purchased 60 Boeing 767 freighters and launched its own air freight operations in North America and Europe, and in 2016 Amazon China registered with the US Federal Maritime Commission in January 2016 to operate as a freight forwarder in the US.

Maersk Line, MSC, CMA CGM and COSCO control nearly half of the global container shipping market. The bankruptcy of Hanjin Shipping in 2016 showed the strain that many shipping lines are still under following the 2008 global financial crisis, and it is possible that the biggest players will increase their market position. Maersk Lineis poised to increase its global market share to 18% after buying rival Hamburg Sued. AP Moller -Maersk remains the largest maritime company overall.

Ports has similar levels of dominance by the big players. Hutchinson Port Holdings, Maersk owned APM Terminals, PSA International and DP World handle 4 out every 10 containers between them. Smaller players such as ICTSI also have aggressive growth plans. Port expansion is predicted to increase by global operators in all major world regions.

In aviation trends are being set regionally by low labour cost airlines such as Ryanair, and at inter-continental level by airlines such as Emirates and Qatar Airways. Ryanair is Europe’s International Transport Workers’ Federation largest low-cost carrier, and is a driving force behind the ‘race -to-the-bottom’ in the aviation industry, employing pilots and cabin crew on zero-hour contracts and using aggressive tax planning. Ryanair is now competing with legacy airlines in major European airports such as Frankfurt. Gulf airlines such as Qatar Airways combine state subsidies and restrictive labour conditions to undercut legacy carriers on major international routes.

Firm such as Uber are leading to unprecedented growth of multinationals in urban transport. These firms combine heavy investment in technology with widespread attacks on basic workers’ rights. Uber has raised $15 billion in capital so far but is regularly accused of failing to comply with minimum wage legislation around the world.

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