You can do 2 things with your MA contribution "points"
1) Click them and it gives your merchant alliance points (to rank them higher or lower) Click on the Merchant Alliance principal >> Merchant alliance rankings to see what the rankings look like.
if you MA is lowest ranked you can get a fighting buff.. from the Merchant Alliance Principal in you MA city (not sure if you can receive it while in other MA cities or not)
2) Save your merchant alliance points until you have 2,000 , 5,000 or 20,000 and exchange the points for a Apparatus (fits between your feet in the character interface). The type of apparatus available to you depends on your Profession. One type is permanent and gives you extra ship dodge, the other is temporary but gives many stats. Both can be drilled to hold drill stones.
As you see only the marine contract is available to my AB character
There are 3 Marine Contracts (or what ever type your profession has access to) lvl 1, 2 and 3... which cost 2,000, 5,000 and 20,000 respectively.
Temporary Apparatus 2,000 contribution points
October 1st through 8th, 2017