IT Standards? How About Pooling Empty Containers!

Trade & Industry Advisory

29 April 2020 • 6 min read

IT Standards? How About Pooling Empty Containers!

Editorial Team

IT Standards and the Management of Empties. Standards are both important and difficult to achieve when it comes to logistics

Standards are both important and difficult to achieve when it comes to logistics. There are so many parties involved. The importance of standards becomes apparent when we look at some of the best-known standards in the industry. Take for example the shipping container. Shipping containers have been used since the end of the 19th century, but they weren’t standardized until 1968 when the TEU was established. The same goes for wooden pallets. And still, there are many variations.

Standardization. IT’s essential.

With the digitalization of freight, the importance of IT standards has become apparent as well. There are many different IT systems used in the procurement, production, and distribution of products. Many of these IT systems (should) communicate with each other, which means they need to be connected. As many of these systems have their own “standards” the integration of these systems is challenging, to say the least. Digitalization has enormous potential, but all systems should be easily interconnected.

Digitalization, standardization and interoperability

I was glad to learn that 5 of the largest ocean carriers have announced the launch of a digital standards association that intends to achieve "digitalisation, standardisation and interoperability" in the container shipping industry. IT executives from CMA CGM, Hapa-Lloyd, Maersk, MSC, and ONE want to create common information technology standards, which are to be openly available to the whole industry.

No worries, we have the platform

The new association is non-profit and aimed at decreasing red tape and increasing transparency. They have also clearly stated that they do not intend to develop or operate any kind of digital platform. As a digital platform that is designed to make the ocean shipping process more efficient and transparent, Cogoport is looking at these developments with interest. Red tape and lack of transparency are some of the key issues in moving freight that our founders want to solve.

Get on board, please!

It’s good to see carriers are starting to work together to solve some of the inefficiencies in our industry. We hope more stakeholders will join this initiative, as standardization and interoperability will increase the potential of the digital landscape that keeps growing, moving closer to the efficient, transparent and free movement of freight across the globe.

Let’s face it, it has been long overdue. And I think they should expand their joint effort beyond IT.

Money on the Table

Carriers should not only be working together on IT standards, but they should also work together on managing empty containers. Today carriers each have their own proprietary container pool. Some interchange takes place, but there is a lot of money left on the table.

Empty containers have to be repositioned and there is nothing much we can do about that. The number of containers that need to be repositioned can be influenced though. What is needed is a shared pool of containers. Currently, shipping companies are moving empty containers from a yard in location A to their customer in location B, while a competitor is shipping an empty container from a yard near location B to their customer near location A. And this is not an exception.

Location, Location, Location... and Visibility

Visibility is key, though. Shipping companies need to make sure they know where containers are. Location data should be correct and up to date for empties. Sharing them can then prevent unnecessary movement of these empties and customers can be sent a container from the closest yard that has one available.

This will decrease the number of miles empties need to be shipped, while also increasing the number of times a container can be loaded and shipped in a year. Everybody wins.

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