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Why API? How Smart Shippers Use API to Optimize Ocean Freight Tracking

December 8, 2023

In a Feb. 15 press release, the Digital Container Shipping Association, or DCSA, announced its intention to switch 50% of bills of lading to electronic BOLs, or eBLs, over the next five years, with the intention of all BOLs being digitized by 2030. According to Thomas Bagge, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the DCSA, which includes major carriers like Maersk, MSC, Hapag-Lloyd, and CMA CGM, “The digitalisation of international trade holds vast potential for the world economy by reducing friction and, as trade brings prosperity and the eBL will further enable trade, helping bring millions out of poverty.

While the DCSA is breaking new ground in eBL’s, digitisation is nothing new to the ocean freight industry. For years, smart shippers have been using the latest ocean freight logistics innovations to improve operations, bolster visibility, and increase efficiency. When used right, an ocean freight tracking API can be a vital component of any digitized ocean freight strategy. For shippers searching for strategies to get the most out of an ocean freight tracking API, we’ve dug into the ways that smart shippers are using their API’s to optimize complex ocean freight tracking operations. 

What is API in Logistics?

Before shippers can consider how to get the most out of their ocean freight tracking API, it’s important to understand what an API in logistics is, and how it can benefit operations. An API, or application programming interface, is a cloud-based intermediary that helps different applications communicate with each other through a single software platform. With an API, shippers can access several key benefits.

  • Scalable Customization ensures that shippers can grow their capabilities alongside capacity. As businesses and shipping operations grow, transportation managers often find themselves relying on an ever-expanding range of vendors and logistics providers. APIs use configurable webhooks to integrate applications into a single interface, allowing shippers to access the full range of their software ecosystem through a single source of truth.
  • White-Label Customer Experience means that shippers can customize and design their API to fit seamlessly into their existing web presence. In supply chain 4.0, the importance of a cohesive, streamlined online customer experience can’t be overstated. Fully customizable APIs can be fully integrated and customized to fit seamlessly into a shipper's existing web infrastructure, allowing them to access the full-range of benefits of an API without disrupting the customer experience. 
  • Automated Processes help shippers forego time-consuming manual processes. Before API, shippers were left calling carriers to find locations, develop accurate ETAs, and learn about mishaps within the transportation process. With communication, tracking, and alerts integrated into an API, shippers can access all transportation information through a single, cloud-based source of truth. 

An API harnesses the power of technology to allow various components within a shipper's tech-stack to work together, providing unparalleled access to the latest transportation innovations. However, in an industry as vast and detailed as the transportation industry, it’s important for shippers to consider the sector-specific benefits afforded to them through an API. 

How Does Ocean Freight Tracking API Address Common Challenges of Ocean Freight Visibility?

It’s no secret that the ocean freight industry is in a state of flux. The standby ocean alliances are breaking up, global conflict is rewriting the rules in important trade lanes across the globe, and a lingering pandemic is hindering recovery efforts. Facing a vast array of challenges, tech-savvy shippers are turning to ocean freight visibility API to remain competitive in a high-stakes ocean freight industry. By focusing on two challenges–rising rates of demurrage and detention and the increasing likelihood of unexpected disruptions–we’ll show how ocean freight tracking API is transforming the ocean freight industry. 

Rising Fees Force Shippers to Rethink Ocean Freight Tracking

According to Global Trade, demurrage and detention rates increased by a staggering 12% in 2021. According to their annual report, ‘’[...] the global average increase was 39% for standard containers whereas the charges for 20 distribution centers doubled in 2021.

While the prevalence of sky-high rates has somewhat abated since 2021, fees remain 12% higher than they were prior to the pandemic. 

For shippers, these high fees are raising operational costs at a time when budgets remain tight as the economy sputters and slows. 

While ocean freight tracking API can’t reverse the global trend of rising demurrage and detention fees, it can provide shippers with a better understanding of where their freight is and when. With real-time ocean freight visibility through an ocean freight tracking API, shippers can locate their freight in real-time and ensure that drayage equipment, drivers, and other transportation must-haves are on stand-by to move freight through busy ports as efficiently as possible. With unparalleled ease-of-use and cloud-based ocean freight tracking, ocean freight container tracking API offers shippers the ability to avoid rising demurrage and detention costs anytime, anywhere. 

As Unforeseen Disruptions Lurk, Shippers turn to Ocean Freight Tracking API. 

The transportation industry has been confronted with a host of issues in recent years. From global conflict complicating operational conditions in some of the world's most important trade lanes, to labor worries sending shippers scurrying for capacity, to pandemic-era shutdowns forcing shippers and carriers to rethink strategies on the fly, these challenges can easily lead to high-dollar disruptions.

Global Conflict

Global conflict can have a staggering effect on the transportation industry. As the War in Ukraine rewrote the rule book for shippers in Europe, transportation experts are warning the ocean freight industry that a similar situation could occur in South East Asia. According to FreightWaves, 88% of larger container ships transitied the Strait of Taiwan in 2022. ““The Taiwan Strait is one of the busiest straits in the world [...] Obviously, if it were to close, it would have a dramatic impact on shipping capacity, in the sense that everybody would have to divert around Taiwan and add to the length of the voyages,” said Soren Skou, CEO of Maersk, according to reporting from FrieghtWaves

Labor Worries 

For many ocean freight shippers, labor worries remain top of mind. On the U.S. West Coast, negotiations between dock workers and port owners are being watched closely, with many nervous that the more than 20,000 dock workers in 29 states covered by the talks could choose to strike. During the last West Coast strike of the ILWU, or International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union, the cost of disrupted freight was estimated at $8 billion. “If the two sides fail to reach a new labor agreement, the cost of shipping may increase. This is because businesses will be forced to find alternative routes for their goods, which could be more expensive,” writes Hellenic Shipping News“Companies might struggle with the inability to receive goods and supplies on time, leading to shortages of raw materials and products, increased costs due to raised shipping charges, and delays in the production and delivery of goods and services.” As shippers worry over West Coast labor negotiations, many are frantically shifting operations to U.S. East Coast ports, which have seen significant increases in volume in the last year. 

Faced with an increasing likelihood of disruption and delay, shippers are turning to ocean freight tracking API as a means of bolstering resilience in the face of increasing exceptions. With ocean freight tracking API, shippers can access automated exception alerts. Automated exception alerts notify shippers whenever an exception has occurred, allowing shippers to react quickly to high-stakes disruptions. With automated exception alerts through an ocean freight tracking API, shippers can manage disruptions with unprecedented reaction speeds, minimizing damage to revenues and reputation and helping freight to stay on track. 

Facing Rising Fees and High-Stakes Disruptions, Smart Shippers Turn to OpenTrack for Industry-Leading API. 

As shippers struggle to contend with the challenges of today’s ocean freight industry, many are turning to ocean freight tracking software as a source of insight and resiliency. With OpenTrack, shippers can access a vital toolkit of ocean freight visibility software resources. 

  • White Label Customer Portal provides shippers with the full power of ocean freight tracking software without their customers skipping a beat.
  • Intermodal Visibility means that shippers can track shipments across modalities, allowing for holistic visibility throughout the transportation process. 
  • Automated Exception Alerts keep shippers in the know, ensuring they maintain top-tier reactivity in even the most challenging transportation crises. 

Book a demo with OpenTrack today, and see how industry leading ocean freight tracking software can transform your ocean freight operations. 

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