Export/Import Updates!
August 19, 2021

Best Ways to Track Your International Cargo

When you are transporting cargo internationally, either by ocean freight or air freight, tracking your goods is important for various reasons. To start, it helps you know its location at any given point in its journey. It enables you to get a head’s up in case of delays and find out sooner rather than later if there have been any other mishaps. Keeping informed of the status will help you better plan the next steps in your supply chain and your delivery schedules.  

This article will cover  

  • How to track your ocean freight shipment
  • How to track your air cargo
  • Innovative tracking tools and new technologies  

Read our blog on the importance of freight tracking and how real-time freight cargo tracking can give them a competitive edge.

On your ocean or air carrier’s website

Almost all shipping lines and cargo airlines offer a tracking facility on their websites, where you can enter certain details and get information on the whereabouts of your shipment.

Ocean container tracking

For ocean container tracking, you can enter one of the following to track your shipment and get details such as last location, estimated arrival date, among others depending on what that particular carrier offers.  

  • Container Number - Comprises of four letters at the start (owner code+ equipment code), a six digit serial number, and a check digit at the end.
  • Bill of Lading Number - The Bill of Lading (BOL) is a standard document issued by the shipping carrier and is required in order to move an ocean freight shipment.  
  • Booking Number - This services a reservation number for your cargo and is provided by the shipping company with which you book your shipment.

With this method you will have to go to the individual websites of different shipping lines or container transport companies to check the status of all your containers. This can be cumbersome and time consuming. Cogoport’s container tracking tool allows you to track all your containers across various shipping lines, in one place.  

Book, manage and track ocean freight containers online

Air cargo tracking

To track your air cargo, visit the airline website’s track shipments section and input your Airway Bill (AWB) number to get details of the cargo's air route, a tracking report, status update, and estimated time of arrival for your shipment.  

An AWB is a document issued by the airline and serves as evidence of the contract for the shipment. It contains details about the goods being transported. It has a unique 11 digit number that helps the shipping company keep track of cargo movements and serves as a way to identify your consignment.  

Cogoport’s container tracking tool

Similar to the way you can track your ocean freight containers on each shipping lines’ individual websites, Cogoport offer you’re a free container tracking tool. This tool allows you to track containers across various shipping lines, regardless of where you have booked your shipment. All you need to do is enter your container number and shipping line and you can get comprehensive information such as location, real-time status, and estimated time of arrival at the different points in its journey.  

Track all your shipping containers in one place, with Cogoport
Cogoport's Container Tracking tool allows you to track all your shipping containers in one place

AIS vessel tracking

Automatic Identification System (AIS) is an automated tracking system whereby transponders fitted to ships automatically provide its position and other information to neighbouring ships and coastal authorities. Ships equipped with AIS transponders can be tracked by AIS base stations that gather data to create a near-real-time picture of global shipping traffic.  

There are multiple AIS ship tracking and intelligence providers that have websites on which you can enter the name of the vessel carrying your cargo to get the following details, and more:

  • Current position
  • Local time
  • Area
  • Current port
  • Latitude/Longitude
  • Status
  • AIS Source
  • Speed/Course
  • Nearby vessels
  • Distance Travelled
  • Distance to go
  • Total voyage distance
  • Time to destination

Some such websites are MarineTraffic, FleetMon, ShipFinder, Vesseltracker, and Vesselfinder, among others.    

An Automatic Identification System (AIS) installed on a ship to track and display other ships in the vicinity.

GPS tracking

If you wish to keep close track of your ocean or air cargo, you can attach a wireless GPS device to it. These devices provide the real time location of the containers right from the first mile to the last mile. A few things to keep in mind are -  

  • This system relies heavily on signals and network connectivity which can sometimes be an issue once the cargo is on-board.
  • The GPS device may not get approved by the airline.  
  • The Lithium-Ion present in most wireless GPS devices is categorised as ‘Dangerous Goods’ for air travel. Hence the GPS device could be disallowed from getting tagged to consignments.  
  • Getting updates will be hindered if the device is damaged or the battery gets exhausted, especially with ocean freight as the cargo takes a relatively long time to reach its destination.

Shipping lines and container leasing companies that own shipping containers may install advanced GPS tracking devices to their containers. These are built especially for ocean freight and work on an advanced GPS Container Tracking System which provides uninterrupted data about time, temperature, speed, latitude, longitude, shock reports, and battery information. You could choose to source containers from a company or shipping line that provides this.  

Personal monitoring

It is always possible to monitor your ocean or air cargo by travelling along with it or in the vessel or air carrier holding it. This will allow you to supervise your cargo personally and ensure it gets loaded and unloaded. The journey, however, could be uncomfortable, long, and tedious.

Alternatively, you can hire personnel specifically for this task or entrust it to a specialised agency. This method will allow you to monitor cargo up-close but is expensive, time-consuming, and not very practical.  

Editorial Team
Editorial Team
Customer success manager
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Sara Smith
Customer success manager

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