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Amazon takes steps to move into ocean shipping

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Amazon is expanding its operation so that it doesn't just send items across the world — it ships them, too. The retailer's Chinese wing has this week been awarded a license by the Federal Maritime Commission to operate as an ocean freight forwarder in the United States, marking the first step Amazon is making into the $350 billion ocean shipping market. In addition to shipping its own goods, the license  — first spotted by freight forwarding company Flexport in the FMC's database — means Amazon China is legally an ocean transport intermediary, and allowed to ship goods to the US by boat for other companies.

The license is just half the battle for Amazon, and it may take months, or even years for the company to actually commence shipping operations to the US, but the move makes sense. Ocean-bound shipping is cheap at the moment, and while the option might not mean much to sellers in the United States, being able to ship via Amazon directly into the retailers fulfilment centers across the country is an enticing prospect for Chinese firms who can't shell out for expensive air shipping.

Ocean shipping might not be as flashy as drone deliveries, but it's a move by Amazon to stay on top of the game in an increasingly competitive market. Alibaba is making inroads into the US, but Amazon's move could undercut China's retail behemoth, allowing manufacturers to sell directly to American consumers without a tortured delivery process.