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Rolled Cargo: How the Lack of Visibility into Containers Are Increasing Costs & Delays

December 8, 2023

Rolled cargo is any transported cargo that could not be loaded onto the vessel it was scheduled to go on due to one reason or another. Usually, cargo rolls because there are capacity concerns and no available space on the boat. As a result, the carrier will likely move the cargo onto the next open vessel. Still, once the initially scheduled boat has been missed, it is more likely for repeated rolling to occur before the cargo finally leaves the docks. Instances of rolled cargo can lead to delays, fees, and additional charges, many that can be avoided with better supply chain visibility via improved container tracking

Poor Visibility Leads to Ambiguity and Confusion About Cargo Status and Obscures the Path Forward

Customer expectations in the current market remain relentlessly high. People want to know they will get their items delivered safely and on time. However, the most significant factor affecting customer satisfaction is confusion and ambiguity about order location and delivery status. Poor supply chain visibility and communication regarding rolled cargo can have devastating effects on profits and growth within the supply chain.

Causes for why a container may get rolled could include any of the following:

  • Overbooking of the vessel, leading to capacity issues.
  • Vessel omissions where the ship skips the port entirely.
  • Vessel weight issues that prevent taking on more cargo.
  • Mechanical issues that keep the boat from leaving the port.
  • Customs problems that prevent cargo from being loaded as planned.
  • Missed cut-off days and poor loading/unloading scheduling. 
  • Pending validation or absent authorization for cargo loads.

Knowing these and other common causes for rolled cargo can go a long way to help improve current and future progress and growth within the supply chain.

Technology and Automation Make It Easier to Maintain End to End Visibility Throughout the Shipping Process

A lack of visibility is a common obstacle faced by managers in every industry and along every step of the modern supply chain. Global supply chain resilience is an integral part of domestic and international transportation, yet many transportation service providers, like freight forwarders, and BCOs do not have complete visibility of their supply chains. According to a 2018 report from Forbes,  56% of respondents had experienced a supply chain disruption due to factors such as adverse weather, cyberattacks, or transportation network problems. Researchers concluded that many small and medium businesses could see as much as 30% less in operational costs and fees if costly last-minute air shipments caused by foreseeable, preventable delays were reduced and eliminated. Embracing technology and automation can improve visibility throughout the shipping process and reduce the frequency of rolled cargo. 

Benefits of Improved Visibility and the Financial Impact of Digital Tracking and Reporting

It is not possible to completely prevent rolled cargo, but it is possible to mitigate the risks of it happening. One simple yet powerful step managers and shippers can take is to schedule cargo space and onboarding at least two weeks in advance to build in some buffer time in the event of a short roll period. Cargo is most likely to be rolled when space on vessels is tight, so keeping tabs on shipping trends and track and trace data during peak seasons can help avoid surprising cargo delays or rolling. In addition, the financial impact of improved shipping visibility and transparency can have long-lasting effects:

  • Faster communication with shippers and carriers.
  • Improved responses to disruptions and rolling. 
  • Better functionality throughout the supply chain network.
  • Easier adjustments to accommodate weather and other factors.
  • Quicker notifications about rolled cargo to adapt as needed.
  • Real-time ocean container tracking data for improved decision-making.
  • Fewer fees and surcharges due to delays and rescheduling.
  • Increased overall profit margins and investment returns. 
  • Greater overall customer satisfaction and improved relationships.

Embrace Supply Chain Technology and Automation to Reduce Rolled Cargo and Improve Overall Return on Investments

Rolled cargo often occurs during standard global cargo transportation. Usually, a shipment gets rolled due to capacity and cargo specifications issues, which can quickly scale with the proper technological advancements and improvements. Vessels run out of capacity for many reasons, and other factors can cause problems with cargo getting loaded and shipped as scheduled. Improving overall returns and investments becomes possible with end-to-end ocean shipment tracking visibility within the modern supply chain market. Get an OpenTrack demo to see how your network could enhance visibility across all containers today. 

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