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Ocean Container Tracking: How APIs Are Improving Real-Time Tracking

July 27, 2021

Ocean container tracking is a subject often left to carriers to provide to shippers and logistics service providers. There’s a perception that carriers have all the control. While that’s partially true, technology, particularly application programming interfaces (APIs), are changing the narrative around ocean shipment visibility. And going as far back as 2019, it’s easy to see how shippers realize the potential of APIs. As further explained by Eric Johnson of the Journal of Commerce, “The casual way APIs came up in [past] conversations was a sign in itself that the technology is gaining traction. For instance, multiple shipping lines have, unprompted, brought up the subject of exposing their APIs to customers, 3PLs, and software providers as opposed to funneling information via email, flat files, a web portal, or EDI.” Yes, APIs can be somewhat confusing. Here are a few things to know about how APIs are improving and enabling real-time visibility across ocean container tracking.

APIs Reduce Confusion and the Costs of Integration

Improvements within ocean container tracking are primarily due to the introduction and use of APIs across the network. APIs enable real-time tracking to reduce confusion and the costs of integration between traditionally siloed systems. By unifying data streams, shippers and beneficial cargo owners (BCOs) can realize increased visibility into all shipment stages. That also includes understanding what is happening before the shipment arrives and throughout its transport on ocean liners.

Ocean Container Tracking Relies on Real-Time Data Updates From Carriers or Other Connected Technologies

Thanks to advances within GPS-enabled systems, Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity, and providing real-time updates regarding current shipment status and location, today’s shippers can reliably track container movements. Now, this data is often supplied by carriers at set intervals. However, it is unrealistic for shippers to try to follow all carrier data within carrier portals. Yes, it is possible. But time is money, and delays caused by logging in to multiple systems increase the risk for human error and detracts from top priorities within managing such freight. By automating that process with an API, shippers can pull all of the data into one platform to understand a comprehensive view of their ocean container movements. This helps to reduce delays and demurrage and detention effectively.

Automation Within Ocean Tracking Platforms Allows for Better Management by Exception

The applications of technology and APIs further enable automation to manage by exception. Managing by exception is all about focusing on priorities that require physical human intervention. Some events cannot be controlled or avoided, such as Mother Nature. However, automated alerts within an ocean tracking platform that leverages an API can notify shippers of the potential risk, recommend changes to the sailing schedule, and forecast possible changes needed to drayage planning.

Additional Implications for Robotics Process Automation Also Advance the Value of APIs

Another opportunity to leverage APIs involves a unique view of robotics, known as robotics process automation (RPA). RPA describes virtual robots that can perform autonomous functions within a given system to enable more competent, more effective, and lower-cost transportation. Of course, these systems rely on APIs to connect between multiple platforms, share updates, and act on the information. Again, it is all about unifying the data streams to create a single source of truth for ocean freight visibility. And over time, RPA has emerged as a symbiont to artificial intelligence and machine learning applications that can continuously analyze, apply, and act upon real-time ocean container tracking data. As a result, today’s shippers are more informed and able to preempt changes without increasing back-office costs and doing more with less.

Increase Your Visibility Into Ocean Freight With the API-Driven Resources of OpenTrack

Today’s shippers are continuously looking for ways to amplify throughput and reduce delays. Using APIs for increased ocean container tracking is the obvious solution. APIs enable real-time insight and actionability across all ocean container shipments, regardless of time and location. That is a marked advantage for entities experiencing significant stress and strain under the capacity crunch deriving from e-commerce expansion over the past year. And leveraging a unified ocean container visibility platform like OpenTrack is a key to successfully reducing demurrage fees and boosting throughput. Book an OpenTrack demo to get started today.


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