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Top Challenges in Ocean Freight Visibility and What to Do About Them

May 11, 2022

The various challenges connected with ocean freight visibility and global shipping networks continue to be obstacles for shippers and carriers. Even as markets recover and slowly get back to something resembling pre-pandemic levels, the immense amount of work left to do is obvious. In particular, ocean freight transport still faces a steep uphill battle in recovery and adapting to the new normal within the global supply chain. A lack of visibility into cargo and shipment status and processes can negatively impact the entire supply chain from start to finish. 

Adaptability has always been crucial to successful growth in national and international supply chains. Still, adaptability is more critical than ever with ocean freight transportation. According to Logistics Viewpoints, disruption has become par for the course for much of the supply chain today. It continues to deal with shutdowns, economic issues, inventory challenges, worker shortages, bottlenecks and delays, and more — all of which significantly impact ocean cargo shipment. Ocean transport lines have long been the backbone of the world’s supply chain. Now visibility within the ocean supply chain is more essential than ever before as logistics managers and ocean transport directors struggle to deal with key ocean freight visibility challenges. 

Ocean Freight Visibility Challenge 1: Rising Expenses Associated With Ocean Freight

Ocean container visibility is a large part of proper logistical management, and one of the most significant side effects of poor visibility is increasing fees and expenses. Ocean transportation is rife with surcharges, fees, and additional costs that often catch shippers and carriers off guard.

Solution: Reduce Detention and Demurrage Fees

The best way to reduce additional costs associated with ocean cargo transport is to avoid the fees and surcharges as much as possible. Good visibility, proper monitoring, and real-time tracking make it possible to identify and manage potential issues before they result in detention, demurrage, and other fees.

Ocean Freight Visibility Challenge 2: Increasing Frequency of Disruptions and Exceptions 

While it is true that delays happen and things will not always go according to plan, when disruptions and exceptions become the norm or occur too frequently, it can negatively impact the supply chain. Managers can feel helpless against mounting issues without proper monitoring and strategies.

Solution: Identify Exceptions Before They Cause Problems

Supply chain stakeholders can easily monitor cargo containers in ocean transport lines in real-time, thanks to good visibility resulting from advanced track and trace systems. Up-to-date data, shared between all involved parties, makes it easier to identify problem areas, address them, and respond before they cause significant issues and delays.

Ocean Freight Visibility Challenge 3: Delays in Sending and Receiving Necessary Payments

Getting shipments delivered on time is all well and good, but without on-time payments and proper cash flow management, shippers and carriers will still struggle during these times of recovery. Poor visibility to ocean freight forwarding standings can impact sending and receiving payments between parties.

Solution: Improve Cash Flow by Closing Accounts Faster

Shippers, carriers, or brokers who deal with the financial side of ocean freight transport need clear end-to-end visibility. Transparency is critical as it allows for faster responses to payment delays, shipment claims, invoice errors, and the like to ensure payments are sent and received on time.

Ocean Freight Visibility Challenge 4: Poor Predictive Planning to Improve Network Processes

Ocean container visibility is vital for any supply chain dealing with global shipments and port-to-port transportation. However, far too few have properly embraced tracking and predictive visibility to help streamline services and ensure daily operations run smoothly within the network.

Solution: Get Clear Visibility Into Inbound Shipments

The solution to this problem is to focus on inbound shipments and ensure tight, accurate scheduling for loading and unloading, container relocating, and cargo distribution. Ocean freight management relies heavily on clear visibility into what happened before, during, and after containers arrive at the port. 

Ocean Freight Visibility Challenge 5: Loss of Manhours to Mundane and Repetitive Tasks

Leaders within local and national supply chains have likely seen and experienced the power of automation and know the benefits of innovative technology and software upgrades. However, many are still reluctant to get on board and fall victim to repetitive and mundane processes. 

Solution: Increase Independence Among Team Members

Management can overcome many common ocean freight transport issues by creating an environment where team members can be self-sufficient and where data is easily accessible. Team members will be free of tasks easily handled by AI machines, automated processes, and better TMS integration.

Ocean Freight Visibility Challenge 6: Lack of Capacity Access and Availability

As recently highlighted by Global Business Reports, global supply chains face a situation where not nearly enough shipping vessels or containers are available to meet current demands for cargo containers in ocean transport. Shipping fleets are fully deployed, and new ships and containers are likely several years off.

Solution: Improve Partnerships Between Carriers, Shippers, and Brokers 

While shippers, carriers, or brokers can’t do much to make more ships and containers available, they can work more effectively to take advantage of availability when it does occur. Good collaborations with various team members mean greater success with capitalizing on opportunities.

Ocean Freight Visibility Challenge 7: Low Levels of Customer Loyalty and Retention

Consumers drive the market, and at the end of the day, customer satisfaction is one of the most critical factors that affect company success and growth. Poor visibility within ocean freight supply chains can lead to late deliveries, poor response times, and an overall lack of good customer service and support.

Solution: Meet and Exceed Customer Expectations With Services Customer to Their Needs

Customer service and personalized shipping options can significantly improve ocean container visibility and response times for shippers and carriers. With advanced insights and data-backed predictions, shippers and carriers can avoid disruptions and delays or respond to them in a more personalized manner when they do occur.

Ocean Freight Visibility Challenge 8: Poor Management of Time, Resources, and Manpower

As highlighted by Bloomberg Businessweek, the pandemic has thrown supply chain logistics into a tailspin thanks to shortages in everything from raw materials to finished products. It also highlighted a key issue with current standings- there is no room for scaling or adapting to handle the pandemic-generated overflow.

Solution: Improve Collaborative Opportunities Across the Board

Better collaboration is required between carriers, shippers, brokers, and 3PLs to manage ocean freight transport better. Finding and capitalizing on collaborative opportunities will make it easier for management to make the most of the time, resources, and available workforce. 

Ocean Freight Visibility Challenge 9: Lack of Clear Insights and Communication Between Parties

Managing local and global supply chains, even in the best of times, requires clear lines of communication and coordination between parties. However, far too many ocean freight companies fall short and miss on opportunities to strengthen and grow their base due to poor communication within the supply chain network. 

Solution: Take Advantage of New Technology and Tools

Thanks to a continued focus on innovation and technology, many wonderful tools and platforms now exist with the sole purpose of improving ocean container visibility and communication processes. Taking advantage of container tracking innovations will improve freight visibly for ocean shippers and carriers.

Ocean Freight Visibility Challenge 10: Reluctance to Advance and Improve Internal Processes

Like all industries, ocean freight and transportation services eventually reach a point where traditional processes are no longer effective. What once worked no longer supports future growth and expansion and, in some cases, can even hinder the profitability of the company and the network as a whole.

Solution:  Embrace Change and Advancement Within the Industry

Managing the ins and outs of container shipping and cargo containers in ocean transportation lanes requires new and innovative processes and approaches. Embracing change, utilizing new tools and technology, and being open to change often sets successful ocean transport companies apart from competitors.

Boost Ocean Freight Visibility With OpenTrack

Properly managing the ins and outs connected with ocean freight visibility and global shipping networks does indeed take a collaborative team effort. Freight brokers, freight shippers, and global carriers alike have to contend with several disruptions and obstacles daily just to keep things moving effectively. 

In the best of times, it can be a struggle to manage container lookup and freight visibility. In the wake of global shutdowns and economic upheavals, much needs to be done to improve visibility and efficiency within the global supply chain, especially regarding ocean freight and container shipping. Ocean freight transport still faces a significant uphill battle in recovery and adaptation to the new normal within the global supply chain. 

While it is true that the supply chain today is accustomed to a certain degree of disruption and delays, the recent effects of the pandemic have been felt especially hard concerning ocean cargo shipments. Ocean transport lines have long been the backbone of the world’s supply chain. Now visibility within the ocean supply chain is more essential than ever as ocean container visibility becomes a clear area that still needs a good bit of work. Contact OpenTrack today to schedule a demo and get started with better visibility and insight into cargo containers in ocean transportation.

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