Sea freight is one of the most common ways to move goods around the world, with ocean cargo vessels carrying somewhere around 80 percent of the world’s goods. Shippers can bear the long transit times over well-trod sea routes because of detailed planning – and the fact that air cargo shipping is very expensive and should only be used for goods at a certain price point. Sending a container on a voyage lasting days or weeks, while only knowing the time of departure and an estimated arrival time is no longer acceptable. Not knowing is a helpless feeling.
Real-time container tracking has transformed the ocean cargo industry, empowering shippers with data and dynamic information about not only the route of their containers but also the goods themselves.
There’s a lot that can happen to cargo during a journey over the water. Delays at the ports, issues with sea routes, or problems with the containers themselves – all can have a negative impact on the goods shippers need to be delivered on time, in full. Within the last few years, shippers have taken advantage of new container tracking technology to keep a closer eye on their cargo. These supply chain visibility platforms empower shippers, enabling them not only to know where their containers are at any point during the journey but also to use the visibility data collected for more robust planning and route optimization. Most importantly, shippers can now provide customers with more accurate delivery timelines, boosting customer happiness.
The Growing Need for Ocean Freight Container Tracking
The ceaseless growth in global trade has necessitated even more control over the supply chain. Shippers need proper ocean freight visibility and container tracking to ensure goods are delivered to customers in the most optimized, cost-effective, and expedient manner possible. Shippers need real-time ocean visibility data to prioritize sufficient supply chain management, improve internal planning, and provide customers with realistic ETAs and lead times.
Technology's Role in Modern Maritime Logistics
Visibility platforms gather container tracking information from a variety of sources, including direct API connections with ocean cargo carriers. It is crucial to collect data from numerous parties in order to validate the information and create a more fulsome picture of the shipment lifecycle.
One of these sources is AIS. Automatic Identification Systems are required to be on board and turned on for most vessels, allowing supply chain stakeholders to access ocean cargo transportation information ranging from the name of the ship and its call sign to ETA, navigational status, and speed. AIS was originally created as a safety measure that enabled ship operators to exchange messages while moving across the sea. This helped avoid collisions and was also useful when locating vessels. Once the industry realized the implications for supply chain visibility, AIS data became a useful tool in tracking goods internationally and predicting when cargo would arrive at port.
The containers can also be tracked using container tracking devices (CTDs). The GPS-enabled devices are placed inside the container to track location and provide a host of data-rich information about temperature and movement.
The information from AIS and CTD devices can be combined with updates from the carrier to form a detailed view of a container’s path from port to port.
Empowering Shippers with Real-Time Container Monitoring
The last few years of supply chain technology advancements have helped shippers take back some control of their cargo from ocean carriers. Instead of being at the mercy of spotty carrier updates posted on a website, shippers can now access near real-time information about their containers and products. Newly introduced, advanced tracking technologies like IoT solutions are having a transformative impact on ocean freight transportation.
The Perks of Real-Time Visibility
A robust container tracking platform is the foundation of a successful exception-management program. Shippers that effectively and quickly handle shipping exceptions can then use that information for improved supply chain planning and forecasting. Real-time visibility data also plays an important role in logistics risk management.
Shippers look to real-time visibility providers for rich supply chain transparency data that can fuel advanced logistics decision-making. Proven technology providers offering shippers the latest innovations in container tracking can provide information beyond the simple movement of goods across the water. This data can come in the form of carbon emissions reporting, port health and congestion measurements, booking and container allocation, rates, and, of course, information about the state of the container being tracked.
Navigating Through Global Shipment Tracking Solutions
Real-time visibility is now a must-have solution in any global supply chain organization, but with so many providers, it can be difficult to find the right tool for each shipper. Not all providers are created equal, and their technologies can be vastly different. Small shippers that just need basic tracking information, along with some exceptions-based monitoring, might be fine with a tool that combines AIS and CTDs with a very basic API connection to carriers.
Shippers that need the most information as fast as possible should find a provider that utilizes IoT cargo tracking. These Internet of Things devices, which are placed in the containers, transmit data to the technology platform automatically, instead of at fixed intervals or when prompted by the user. Sharing rich container data among collaborators and diverse technology systems can also be easier and faster.
With IoT devices, shippers must prepare for a lot of data. Exception-based tracking is great because users only get data about shipments that have issues; with IoT devices, some shippers might be overwhelmed by the amount of information they have at their fingertips – and how to use it effectively. This wealth of information ultimately only helps create more effective supply chain processes. However, using IoT devices properly might require more advanced planning than before, turning data from other visibility products into actionable insights. Shippers that use IoT devices can look forward to multimodal shipment tracking, advanced container temperature monitoring, and enhanced shipment data.
The Impact of Container Tracking on Ocean Freight Experience
Adapting to supply chain pain points, creating new routings and plans to avoid metaphorical rough waters, reacting with pinpoint precision the minute an exception pops up – that’s the supply chain resiliency dream. Container tracking and visibility are the cornerstone of supply chain resilience, giving shippers complete control of their supply chain destiny. What’s more, supply chain visibility technologies fortify operational efficiency and contribute to cost reduction.
Beyond reacting to challenges on the sea, visibility solutions help shippers save money by reducing unexpected costs at the ports. By enabling better tracking and visibility of ocean containers, shippers can reduce or even avoid detention and demurrage charges at the ports.
Shippers with robust visibility solutions know that efficient supply chain management saves money for their operations and helps create happy customers. Whether it’s making customers happy with routine shipment updates or passing some of the supply chain optimization savings on to them, customers benefit as much as shippers from supply chain visibility solutions.
In an industry that produces 8 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, tracking the sustainability footprint of shipments is a growing concern. By gaining visibility into the carbon cost of shipping cargo through CO2 monitoring, shippers can actively participate in greening the supply chain and prioritizing supply chain visibility by purchasing carbon offsets and choosing routes that optimize emissions. This environmental byproduct of visibility can also increase customer happiness. Instead of greenwashing and creating empty pledges to clean up supply chain emissions, shippers can take a leadership role in helping reduce the release of greenhouse gasses.
Choosing the Right Container Tracking Strategy
Shippers need a technology provider that knows the true value of ocean container visibility and has pledged to help their customers unlock the power of supply chain transparency. Shipment visibility is undergoing commoditization – it’s hard to believe that some shippers might not have ocean freight visibility by now – but true innovation in the space is still worth searching out.
End-to-end visibility is a must, and make sure the provider has coverage to at least 98 percent of global shipments. Some providers will offer visibility solutions but then have connections to only a handful of carriers. Shippers should also ensure that container tracking goes beyond the port, extending to drayage and rail providers. Providers that can deliver actionable analytics allow shippers to optimize their supply chains by continually updating ETAs and lead times, leading to better planning and forecasting.
Data quality is also crucial. Shippers need to connect with a technology provider that offers complete, accurate information with low data latency. Data cleansing is important and increases the ability of shippers to create new and valuable insights from the information.
Vizion’s container tracking API empowers shippers with rich insights into their supply chains. Book a demo today to see how Vizion can optimize your ocean shipping processes.