Amazon on the High Seas - The New York Times
Mammoth shipping containers packed with dehumidifiers in the Pacific Ocean provide a glimpse at how the pandemic and Amazon might be shifting shopping as we know it.
Earlier this year, a company called Aterian was in a jam with its hOmeLabs brand of dehumidifiers. You may have read about how difficult and expensive it has become to move goods around the world, and Aterian was feeling the pain.
The company was being quoted prices of $25,000 or more to haul a shipping container of products from factories in China to its shoppers in the U.S. The same shipment typically costs about $3,000, Aterian’s chief product officer, Michal Chaouat-Fix, told me. Then Amazon got in touch and offered to put the dehumidifiers on cargo ships that it chartered across the Pacific for a significantly lower fee.
“It was a huge relief,” Chaouat-Fix said. Amazon brought the goods to port, and Aterian arranged to truck them from there to its U.S. warehouses. Those dehumidifiers were then available to buy on Amazon, as well as from Walmart, eBay and the hOmeLabs website.
I keep close tabs on Amazon, but I didn’t know until Aterian told me that the company hires cargo ships for some of the merchants that sell in its digital mall. Amazon’s ocean freight service is not new, but it became more relevant as global shipping went haywire this year. Amazon has also added new options to what the company told me was a still relatively small service that’s available to few merchants.
Amazon’s adventures on the high seas are an intriguing wrinkle in the war to get products to our door. It’s also another example of Amazon’s growing network of warehouses, package hubs, trucks, airplanes and delivery vans that show that the company is becoming a force in the entire life cycle of products from factories to our homes.