Setting Sail to Success: Container Tracking with Maritime AI™

Shipping containers are crucial in global trade as they are used to transport goods across oceans and continents. “Some 11 billion tons of goods are transported by ship each year. This represents an impressive 1.5 tons per person based on the current global population. Shipping’s capacity to transfer goods and materials from where they are produced to where they will be ultimately consumed underpins modern life,” according to the International Chamber of Shipping

With uncertainties abounding, tracking container ships has become a necessity to ensure timely delivery. In this guide, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about shipping container tracking, from how to track a shipping container, to the critical role of Maritime AI™.

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The Significance of Container Tracking for Different Stakeholders

Various stakeholders value different aspects of container tracking: 

  • Shippers: shippers can use container tracking to manage their inventory effectively, avoiding stockouts and ensuring timely delivery of goods. Container tracking can also help shippers manage seasonal inventory, providing information on the expected ETA of goods during peak seasons.
  • Finance Department: the finance department can utilize container tracking to know when to issue or claim payment for import and export transactions. Tracking containers’ ETA can help ensure timely payment or payment claims, avoiding financial losses.
  • Customers: container tracking can improve customer satisfaction by providing accurate information on the ETA of goods. Customers can plan their operations better, knowing when to expect the arrival of goods

Container Tracking and the Complexity of Transshipments

“During transshipment, the containers are unloaded at the site, reloaded onto a different vessel, and transported to the endpoint. The intermediate location or the point of shipment transfer is known as the transshipment hub,” as explained by Container XChange

It’s important to differentiate between the container and vessel journeys. Multiple vessels may carry one container on its journey from the original port of loading (POL) to the port of discharge (POD). For example, container X will leave its POL on vessel A, stop at a transshipment port or hub, and be transferred to vessel B and from there to the POD. These transshipment scenarios complicate the issue, often forcing shippers and freight forwarders to act as detectives to try and figure out exactly where their container is and where it’s going. In more complex scenarios, there could even be more than one intermediate port along the way.

When tracking containers in this complicated ecosystem, it’s important to know if your container will be delayed and why so that you can take immediate action and avoid many issues down the line. As noted in our recent eBook, “For freight forwarders, importers and exporters, beneficial cargo owners (BCOs), and others in the supply chain ecosystem, delays are damaging, and can lead to detention and demurrage fees. Over 40% of shipments are delayed. Considering this reality, you would think it would be easy to quickly understand why containers are delayed and when they will actually arrive, but this remains a huge challenge. This uncertainty can prevent planning optimization, damage your customer relationships, and reduce profit margins/increase costs.”

Leveraging the power of Maritime AI™, you can see the true reasons for your delayed shipments, in real-time: 

  • Rollover – the container failed to be loaded onto the vessel that was scheduled to transport it out of the transshipment port (TSP) or POL.
  • Transshipment delay – the transshipment will occur later than scheduled.
  • Late departure – the vessel left the POL later than scheduled.
  • Short transshipment buffer – transshipment has a high risk of not being completed as scheduled, due to the TS window being too small.
  • No vessel allocation – no vessel has been allocated to load your container(s) at the POL or TSP.
  • Unfeasible journey – the expected transit times provided by the carrier are too short, based on Windward data and estimations.
Container Tracking

The Importance of Milestone Coverage in Logistics Operations

Milestone coverage is another crucial aspect of container tracking. With most freight forwarders and shippers struggling to achieve full visibility, a great deal of time is spent doing detective work when it comes to ocean freight tracking and logistics operations. Crucial milestones, such as the actual time of arrival (ATA) and the actual time of departure (ATD), are not provided by most carriers. This means both freight forwarders and shippers are often left in the dark, and can’t plan proactively.

Additionally, comprehensive milestone coverage can help manage exceptions effectively. For example, if a container is delayed during transshipment, shippers can take proactive measures to avoid further delays or disruptions in the supply chain.

One of Windward’s previous blogposts notes that, “having full visibility of milestones provides much-needed value, including: 

  • Knowing when the shipper can hand over the responsibility of the shipment to the importer and when the cargo is loaded on board. This is the point where the shipper gets paid and obviously wants to receive the money ASAP.
  • Better management of land transportation and warehouse staffing by knowing when the container was loaded onto a vessel at the transshipment port, and when it was discharged at the POD, freeing up personnel for more critical tasks and knowing when/how to scale.
  • Keeping track of critical dates, such as ATA and ATD, to validate late fee invoices – instead of wasting money on inaccurate detention and demurrage charges.”

How to Track a Shipping Container Using Maritime AI™ Technology

Advanced Maritime AI™ technology uses deep learning and machine learning models that generate real-time ETA predictions for the entire global fleet of container vessels. It continuously calculates congestion levels at all container ports, providing the most accurate container ETAs. With a Maritime AI™ solution, you can track your shipments in real time and receive the most updated vessel information.

Container tracking via the booking reference number, can ensure you receive container insights even earlier. Shippers and freight forwarders are usually given a booking reference number when booking a container. Tracking the container before it is loaded onto a vessel can provide valuable information about any issues with vessel changes, and changes in location.

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5 Benefits of AI-Powered Container Tracking

  1. Real-time visibility: container tracking provides real-time visibility of the location, status, and condition of shipping containers. This helps freight forwarders and shippers easily track the movement of containers and make informed proactive decisions based on the data.
  2. Enhanced operational efficiency and reduced costs: optimize the movement of your containers and streamline the shipping process with container tracking. By knowing the exact location and status of containers, shippers and freight forwarders can avoid delays and minimize transit times, which can reduce avoidable costs like detention and demurrage charges.
  3. Exception management: managing a large volume of shipments can be overwhelming, especially if you have to manually track thousands of containers. A Maritime AI™ solution that leverages exception management filters all your shipments and identifies those that are significantly late or early, allowing you to focus on the critical exceptions that urgently need to be addressed.
  4. Optimized inventory management: container tracking provides end-to-end visibility of the supply chain, from the point of origin to the final destination. This helps shippers manage inventory levels better and optimize their supply chain logistics and operations.
  5. Increased customer satisfaction: freight forwarders and shippers that use container tracking technology can provide customers with accurate and timely information about the location and status of their shipments. This can help to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty. 

The Future Starts Now

Maritime AI™ has the power to revolutionize container tracking for the shipping industry, improving supply chain management, customer service, and overall productivity. As we continue to navigate the complexities of the global trade landscape, container tracking serves as a vital tool in ensuring the seamless and efficient transportation of goods across borders and continents. 

Looking to Revolutionize Your Container Tracking?