To export your goods, your containers travel extensively and pass through the hands of many different partners. Tracking in maritime transport is thus essential to successfully get your container through its journey at sea and to the front door of your customer. In this article, we will discuss tracking methods, how to deploy an effective tracking strategy, and how to improve exceptions management.
Why Is Tracking Important?
Tracking plays an important role in your supply chain and allows you to achieve your essential goals. Here are a few advantages that tracking brings:
Time is a crucial element for you as a logistics manager. The sooner you know about changes, the sooner you can react to them. Tracking will help quicken operations and limit delays.
Every extra hour that a trucker waits for your container leads to extra expenses. By knowing and updating partners with the exact arrival time of the container, demurrage & detention costs are reduced.
Companies are often charged of demurrage & detention costs since their container is stuck on the port or the empty container return has been unexpectedly delayed.
Improved Customer Relations
Providing transparency to your end customer with the location of your container gives them peace of mind, a greater comprehension, and the ability to adjust to changes on their side, all of which increases customer satisfaction.
What are the Current Tracking Methods?
Logistics managers keep track of their container in two different ways: through communication or through location tracking. Communicating with your partners about the status of your container is essential, and verifying it with a satellite or IoT tracking is the extra layer of security.
Tracking by Communication
Logistics managers usually verify each checkpoint that a container goes through with the implicated partner:
Communication with Road Transport
As an empty container is being picked up, filled, and delivered to the POL, logistics managers actively check up with the trucker to make sure it is on time. This is usually done through a combination of phone calls, emails, and messages.
Communication with your Ocean Carrier
Once your container is in the hands of your ocean carrier, logistics managers regularly check the carrier’s website to see the updates. The carrier notes a container as it is passed through each of the following checkpoints:
The departures points
- The gate in time
- The load on time
- The vessel departure time
The transfer points
- The entry time in the transfer port
- The time the container is unloaded
- The time it is loaded on the transfer ship
- The vessel departure time
The arrival points
- The time the vessel arrives at the POD
- The time the container is unloaded
Tracking by Location
GPS/satellite & IoT
Known as an Automatic identification system (AIS), GPS and satellite tracking offer accurate real-time tracking through VHF radio waves. Similarly, IoT identifies the location of a container through various connection types. Even though these solutions can be quite costly and can require slightly complex engineering systems to locate containers accurately, they do give you extra visibility in your shipping operations.
Tips on how to deploy an effective tracking strategy
The status of your container is what’s important, the location is just an added bonus
If you have the budget to invest in satellite or IoT tracking, it’s great to do so. It allows you to verify that your container is indeed where your partner says it is. However, the most important is the knowledge is gained through communication tracking.
Tracking given by the various communication channels informs you not only of current delays, but also of expected and potential delays. This form of tracking gives you an eye into the future. Communication sharing also assures you of the status of your container, not just the location. For example, your container might be located at the port but not gated in, which means it might not be on time for the departure. That’s why being in touch with each checkpoint through communication is essential.
Tracking is only as good as your visibility
To find out the status of a container, logistics managers are often having to exchange hundreds emails and messages, and check ocean carrier websites multiple times per day. This is already time consuming for one shipment, but when multiple containers come into play it becomes impossible to properly serveille containers in a way that will avoid risks and delays.
No matter how good your partners’ communication is in updating you with the status of your container, if you are not able to be continually checking all the communication channels, the news won’t get to you on time. That’s why tracking can only be as good as your ability to be notified about exceptions.
How to increase visibility and improve exceptions management in container tracking
The main challenge in container shipping today is the ability to be properly notified about your containers’ status because communication is spread over so many different channels. To track a container properly, you have to check your email and Whatsapp, your ocean carrier’s website, and your satellite tracking account. But what if all of these channels could be brought into one place?
BuyCo’s shipping management solution allows you to be notified from all channels on one single collaborative platform. Here is a diagram that illustrates the power of BuyCo’s notification system for exceptions management:
BuyCo delivers you all the information you need to know from your road transport, ocean carriers, and your satellite tracking system. You are then able to select which events you would like to be notified about.
This simplified exception management tool is collaborative so it allows you and all your partners to stay on the same page and avoid wasting time checking multiple different channels of communication.
How to turn tracking into data intelligence
Since BuyCo has an eye on each point that your container travels through, captured through the various channels, the platform saves a history of each container’s timeline. This means that you can see when and for how long the container has been under the charge of each partner. If you receive on extra expense for a delayed container, you’ll be able to look back through the history and verify the delay.
All this data is then translated into powerful KPIs, giving you the ability to identify the exact statistics on your partners’ performance.
If you would like to learn more improving your supply chain, take advantage of our free personalized report to improve your container shipping (for a limited time only). Fill out 10 quick questions, and based on your responses, we'll identify the best strategies you could implement to optimize your specific processes.