Carriers will be able to provide customers with access to a standards-based API for container tracking data, but for shippers are new AI-based tools already one step ahead?
The Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA), the neutral, non-profit group founded by major ocean carriers to digitise and standardise the container shipping industry, has announced that “a majority of its member carriers have adopted DCSA Track & Trace (T&T) standards and are currently or will soon be providing customers with access to the standards-based API”.
The DCSA believes this is a breakthrough development, providing “a streamlined way for shippers to receive real-time, cross-carrier data regarding the whereabouts of their containers. Widespread adoption of DCSA standards will advance the industry in terms of visibility and real-time responsiveness, resulting in greater reliability and a better customer experience”.
The DCSA T&T standard comprises an information model and interface standards that can be downloaded for free from the DCSA website; and the API definitions are available on SwaggerHub.
Executives from leading global carriers MSC, ONE, CMA CGM, Yang Ming and Evergreen made statements supporting the new T&T standards. All the executives emphasised the need for standards to support digital initiatives working across multiple carriers and stressed the importance of standardisation to their digitalisation initiatives.
“We’re very pleased that adoption is gaining traction among the carriers,” said Thomas Bagge, CEO of DCSA. “But digital transformation of the container shipping industry, and the resulting improvements in efficiency and customer experience, simply can’t happen without even more widespread adoption of digital standards. DCSA’s focus for 2021 is to promote adoption among all stakeholders. Without adoption the industry will not benefit from the digital foundation that is being created.”
The T&T initiative has the potential to link container tracking and tracing systems across carrier Alliance agreements in a seamless way, which would be a big step forward for carriers. However, whether the T&T initiative will deliver a lot of value to shippers is less certain.
There are a new ‘supply chain visibility” tools and platforms in the market today that are offering shippers much richer data. In March San-Francisco based ClearMetal, which claims to be “the leading SaaS platform for international freight visibility, dynamic transport planning and customer experience” announced it is offering to guarantee international ocean freight shippers “complete and timely delivery of data” on their shipments across the whole supply chain.
Through a partnership with the German reinsurance company Munich Re Group, ClearMetal is offering a guarantee that “it will offer completeness of data for container shipments at least 90% of the time. ClearMetal also guarantees it will notify customers within 24 hours of vessel arrival at port for 80% or more of its container shipments, though it typically provides its customers completeness of data at a rate higher than 90% and ship arrival notifications within minutes or hours of the event”.
In response to questions from WorldCargo News, ClearMetal CEO Adam Compain said that “completeness of data” means much more than just container location, including “real-time updates on critical milestones for their shipments and imputing events that shippers would never receive. The ClearMetal Platform hosts nearly 40 milestones from stuffing, pre-carriage and port-to-port including transshipments, to post-carriage, final inland delivery and empty return (for D&D purposes)”.
ClearMetal gets this data from its “international visibility network” which includes direct ocean carrier and 3PL integrations, a satellite and IoT ecosystem, terminals, and third-party sources. The company has its own system for pairing transport details with a shipper’s order.
Congestion, delays and other supply chain problems over the last six months have highlighted the value of a higher level of visibility. Since late 2020 vessels have been waiting up to 10 days (or more at times) for a berth at Los Angeles and Long Beach. In that situation container position and vessel ETA data (when a vessel arrives at port – not at berth) is of limited value to a shipper. ClearMetal has developed and patented a proprietary technique for identifying what Compain calls “true vessel arrival at berth” with a latency of under four hours. “The largest global shippers are using ClearMetal’s data not only to plan for inland operations domestically but also internationally, and exporters are automating customer invoicing off our (trusted) arrival milestone data,” Compain said.
ClearMetal’s success highlights that the shipping industry is a late comer to digitalisation. Companies like ClearMetal have emerged to offer shippers a service that tells them not only the location of their container, but a timeline for the movement of their goods over the whole supply chain.