There has been a few studies on how electronic commerce based on the NII(National Information Infrastructure) will change the structure of the industry and the market. Most of studies generally agree that NII can reduce transaction costs. However, an argument on the effect of the NII on the structure of the industry are divided into two groups. One is that the traditional intermediaries will be eliminated in the move to create direct producer-consumer links(Disintermediation) due to reduction of transaction costs, the other is that the intermediaries won't be eliminated, but will appear in the new forms(Cybermediaries) due to the new needs that electronic commerce imposes on producers and consumers. Especially several social and institutional factors may mitigate against the elimination of intermediaries.
This arguments can be applied to the liner shipping industry. The intermediary such as ocean freight forwarder in the liner shipping industry can be threatened by the advent of electronic commerce companies. The aim of this paper is thus to examine whether the role of forwarder as traditional intermediary will be eliminated or reinforced in the process that the liner shipping market moves to electronic market. The theoretical background was included in this paper by conducting a literature survey and the present condition of electronic commerce in the maritime industry was reviewed. Also a questionnaire survey was carried out for the purpose of this study.
The summaries of this research are as follows :
First, maritime electronic commerce has enough capability to replace a role of the traditional forwarder. Maritime electronic commerce is emerging in almost all areas of the industry and in a electronic market all attendants are able to deal maritime resources they want.
Second, the current ratio of using maritime electronic commerce is relatively low because the integration of the system between the system of independent personal users and that of maritime electronic commerce service companies has not been made.
Third, the transaction cost theory and 'Disintermediation' are proved in this paper. It is found in this study that the traditional role of the forwarder as the intermediary in the liner shipping industry can be weakened or even eliminated by the introduction of the maritime electronic commerce.
Finally, this study also found that the non-economic factors such as the social and institutional factors in the market would mitigate against the elimination of intermediaries. The liner shipping industry has traditionally formed the complicated business relationships between the intermediaries and transport service providers. In fact the non-economic factors exist in the liner shipping industry. Therefore it can be said that although electronic commerce systems become more sophisticated, those systems can not reflect the complicated business relationships completely.
In conclusion, this study proved ironically both the disintermediation argument and the opposite one. It shows that at the present the traditional forwarders and the maritime electronic commerce are in the competitive relationships and on the balance of power. The role of the traditional forwarders seems to be more reinforced in the future, considering the conservative characteristics of the trading mechanism and non-economic factors in the liner shipping industry.