Ocean Logistics Tracking: 3 Reasons Shippers Mistake Carrier ETA for Freight Visibility

Ocean Logistics Tracking: 3 Reasons Shippers Mistake Carrier ETA for Freight Visibility

The ocean logistics tracking industry is undergoing something of a revolution. A new, perpetually strained supply-chain ecosystem means that logistics businesses need access to better data to keep up with increased customer demand. When businesses wonder how to track ocean shipment, they echo an industry-wide sentiment. 

Forbes wrote in a 2021 report, “Billions of venture capital dollars of investment are being poured into companies that can integrate real-time visibility data with transportation to provide a more informed ETA for shippers and carriers…” 

With that kind of industry momentum toward visibility in the sea freight tracking sector, it’s time for every logistics business to consider a tech-enabled ocean freight tracking system. A cutting-edge ocean freight tracking system can offer unprecedented logistics visibility that blows traditional visibility measures — such as estimated times of arrival — out of the water.  

The Challenge of Reliability in Carrier ETAs

For decades, estimated time of arrival (ETA) has been considered the peak of ocean cargo tracking. Though ETAs may seem simple, they have a layer of complexity that ocean BL tracking (bill of lading) lacks. Unlike ocean BL tracking, a single trip can have two different ETAs. The first of these is a marketing schedule, which is the schedule pitched to customers and published on advertising materials. This schedule, however, can often look very different from a carrier’s operating schedule, which is only shared internally within a carrier and managed by an operations team. 

The fact that there are two different ETAs — one used to pitch, the other used to work — reveals a glaring flaw in ocean logistics tracking. By maintaining an internal ETA, carriers demonstrate the need for flexible ETAs in ocean cargo tracking. According to Shipping & Freight Resource, carriers on the China/Europe route suffered an “average days deviation from the original schedule increasing in January 2022 to an average of 8.35 days.” With an average deviation of more than eight days, it becomes clear that carriers require a more communicative, flexible approach to ocean logistics tracking

With an unpredictable supply chain and rising maintenance and fuel costs, ocean logistics tracking can offer flexibility and allow carriers to make last-minute adjustments for the sake of their bottom line. These adjustments, however, can result in disgruntled customers. 

Luckily, there’s another way. By forgoing traditional ETAs for an integrated, tech-enabled ocean freight tracking system software, businesses can maintain the flexibility of internal ETAs without keeping their customers in the dark. An easily integrated, easy-to-use API can help enterprises stay flexible in a strained supply chain while ensuring that customers remain happy. 

1. Ocean Logistics Tracking ETAs Are Based on Ample Resources at Departure

Whether or not a logistics business can keep to an ETA is subject to many factors, the most important of which is resource availability. The driver shortage, which research indicates is the transportation industry’s No. 1 issue for five years running, makes it challenging to obtain drayage services. Meanwhile, ongoing labor negotiations also could potentially stall operations. These risks mean there is more potential than ever for lack of resources and an ocean freight tracking system to stymie efficiency at departure. 

Ideally, none of these issues would be present, and there would be ample personnel throughout the logistics process. However, since 2020 and the COVID-19 induced supply chain issues, personnel have been in short supply. The effects of this can currently be seen most clearly in China, where “According to China’s ministry of transport, port volumes increased 1.7% year on year during the period, to 91m teu, with 23.6m handled in April alone,The Loadstar reported. “The Covid-related disruption is continuing at ports across the country, however. In its latest update, Fibs Logistics noted that Tianjin was the latest major port city to go into lockdown.” 

Traditional ocean logistics tracking ETAs are based on antiquated assumptions. Businesses can no longer assume they’ll have fast, easy access to an experienced workforce. As can be seen in China, adhering to these assumptions can create large-scale logistics disruptions. Businesses can use ocean logistics tracking to plan for challenges and rise to the occasion by partnering with an API-enabled ocean freight tracking system. 

2. Ocean Freight Tracking Doesn't Consider Port or Dock Congestion

Unlike a high-tech, API-enabled ocean freight tracking system, ETAs take time at sea into account, not time in port. But in a post-COVID-19 logistics ecosystem, it’s no longer safe to assume that offloading freight will be quick or easy. The aforementioned labor issues, combined with an at-times booming, at-times bustling shipping industry, can make port operations challenging to plan.

The issue of port congestion itself has complex roots and can often vary. As The Loadstar reported, “Port congestion and global supply chain issues are complex and require a much closer look than simply counting the number of vessels outside ports. Also, the impact of congestion seems to widely differ based on the origin of vessels.” Port congestion is an unbelievably costly and, as The Loadstar points out, complex issue. 

Given the high-stakes costs of port congestion, more and more ocean carriers are turning toward a tech-enabled ocean freight tracking system. An ocean freight tracking system can offer real-time ocean logistics tracking, allowing businesses to closely monitor their freight assets and ensure that regardless of a shipment's destination, it will be taken care of efficiently upon arrival. 

3. All Ships Ping Real-Time Locations with AIS Data, But That Leaves Massive Room for Error in Other Modes

Though more ships than ever have automated identification systems (AIS) for ocean logistics tracking, the lack of similar technologies in other transportation modes, such as road and rail, means that visibility plummets as soon as a freight asset is taken off a vessel. Furthermore, the valuable location data provided by AIS is only useful as a performance metric if a carrier decides to share these metrics across platforms. As a result, customers are often at the whim of carriers that may be more interested in their bottom line than full transparency, unlike an ocean freight tracking system. 

Without an accurate ocean freight tracking system across the entire logistics process, businesses must contend with the whims of carriers and their ETAs. But by partnering with a tech-integrated ocean logistics tracking solution, companies can provide real-time, easily-accessible data to their customers. This visibility and transparency in operations can help keep customers happy, which helps a business's bottom line. 

Whether it’s a single, large delivery or a complicated series of less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments destined for multiple customers, real-time transportation updates from an ocean freight tracking system can provide valuable insight into a logistics process. In a dynamic, rapid-evolving logistics ecosystem, businesses must embrace supply chain visibility solutions for ocean logistics tracking that give them the flexibility to adapt to real-world logistics crises in real-time. 

Maximize Shipment Level Visibility With VIZION API

When asking ‘how to track ocean shipment?’ It's important to consider that conventional ETAs work in a traditional logistics ecosystem — but one lesson the logistics industry has learned since 2019 is, surely, not to assume convention. By abandoning conventional methods of ocean cargo tracking for new, tech-enabled solutions for ocean freight tracking systems, businesses can demonstrate to their customers and shareholders that they’re evolving alongside the supply chain and reaping the benefits rather than being left in the dust. With the global supply chain rapidly changing, it’s time to ask how your business can prepare to maintain visibility in tomorrow’s logistics industry. 

By partnering with VIZION API, your business will gain instant access to a vast wealth of sea freight tracking resources, all of which can instantly be used as 21st Century visibility assets to help both your clients and your bottom line. Book a demo with Vizion today to try an ocean freight tracking system and see what the future of ocean logistics tracking can make possible for your business.

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