Solving for Supply Chain professionals

What is MarineTraffic doing to plug the visibility gap for in-transit shipments?

This blog post was updated on 15/4/2020 

Last week I formed part of the MarineTraffic delegation making the rounds in New York. Through a number of meetings and a small event we hosted in the city, we very intentionally spoke to people in a very specific part of the market.

We consider ourselves to be very fortunate to be the place almost everyone turns when they need to know where a ship is. This, no doubt, stems from being first in the game, and to the continuing value we’re building. These factors, and more, mean we see that often quoted number of over six million unique visitors to the platform every month.

As MarineTraffic has grown in popularity, we’ve continued to develop new and smarter solutions that are being used by an ever-widening range of business, large and small. Honestly, this has proved to be a great strength, as well as a bit of weakness. A weakness in that there is a host of valuable information that’s being created but is not being seen by those who can really benefit from it. 

This brings us to the conversations we were having in New York last week. We sat down and had frank conversations about the real-life problems faced by those on the front line of logistics and supply chain management, and then looked together at the tools and data MarineTraffic has in its arsenal to help solve these problems. 

Last week’s sessions echoed what we’d already heard in the interviews and focus groups we’ve run so far, with the same themes topping the charts time and again. I’m sure it won’t come as any surprise to anyone working in supply chain that all but one of the top four pain points relate to time

Having to reschedule shore-side logistics at the last minute, due to late (or sometimes early) delivery, repeatedly comes up as the number one headache. With the note that disruption (and the resultant costs) could have been reduced if notice of the delay was received earlier.

The other three pain points all rank in at about the same level. 

Spending far too much time on the phone calling shippers to confirm schedules and not having time to track every single shipment – ideally, only those shipments that will be delayed would demand such attention. Many of the professionals we have spoken to are also finding a real challenge in justifying to their customers, both internal and external, why they can’t provide accurate information on the whereabouts of cargo during the sea leg. 

Looking quickly at our own numbers, we are seeing that over 22% of commercial vessels are arriving at their destination a day later than planned, with 15% making intermediate stops between their departure port and their declared destination. 

Having collected this pile of problems, we asked if we have any solutions.

I’m happy to say that for logistics and supply chain professionals, we do. We have a whole host of information and tools that can improve in-transit visibility and make their work noticeably better. We can provide tracking, improved ETA accuracy, early indications on shipments that are at risk of being delayed, and ‘one dashboard’ view of all active shipments. As something like icing on the cake, all this information is available 24/7 without the need to pick up a phone or send an email. 

The line of sight provided by our data is what enables MarineTraffic to deliver solutions that are making a real difference to supply chain professionals. We’re the only company in the market tracking vessels using all of the major satellite AIS providers. This makes a difference because it means we get more regular updates on the whereabouts of the vessels and have more points with which to recalculate an ETA. We also have an extensive archive data set – enabling us to identify patterns and deliver the most accurate ETA information.

Being based on AIS data also means we can improve visibility without the need for additional equipment to be installed, either aboard the ship or on-premises. Unlike some road tracking systems, that require a box to be installed on the truck, AIS systems are a requirement on very nearly every vessel used for moving cargo.

The response from the supply chain professionals we have spoken with has been positive. They have come away armed with the information they need exactly when they need it – knowing how shipments are progressing at sea gives them better control over their operations as a whole, and enables them to give their customers an improved service and experience.

This process doesn’t end here, we’re going to continue to work on both sides of the equation – on the one side, we’ll continue talking with professionals about their challenges, while on the other side, we will keep evolving our solutions and improving the tools we provide. 

You can read more about the solutions providing improved in-transit visibility here.

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