Container shipping has hit tech tipping point, INTTRA says

Container shipping has hit tech tipping point, INTTRA says

The industry is about to enter a new phase where data analytics will play a key part, according to INTTRA.

The pace of technology innovation in the container shipping industry is accelerating as businesses seek new and more efficient ways to operate, and it is transforming the industry, according to research from INTTRA.

In a white paper, Blueprint 2032: How Technology Transforms Ocean Container Shipping, John Fay, CEO of INTTRA, said digitization was now a competitive necessity. “We’ve reached a tipping point in the global shipping industry when information technology is now the primary means for CEOs and their companies to achieve and increase long-term profitability,” he said.

INTTRA is an electronic transaction platform, software, and information provider that connects shippers with carriers. More than 700,000 container orders are initiated on the INTTRA platform each week, representing over one-quarter of global ocean container trade.

Inna Kuznetsova, COO and president of INTTRA, said ocean shipping was becoming empowered by networks and greater interconnectivity, and the industry was about to enter a new and exciting phase, and data analytics would be a key part of this transformation.

“Establishing a neutral digital network is the next big step,” she said. “Connecting the ocean shipping community in a networked environment with technology such as blockchain will lead to expansion and exchange of analytics across multiple vendors. Operational, financial, and informational work streams will be integrated, which will trigger breakthroughs in cost reduction and operational efficiency. INTTRA is the company that drives innovation as a neutral platform and can help lead this evolution.”

Maersk Line and IBM in March teamed up to deploy blockchain technology to digitize the complex paper trail involved in the global supply chain that they said would reduce cost, errors, and time involving tens of millions of shipping containers.

Blockchain shares a digital ledger across a network of computers without need for a central authority such as a bank. Under the concept, no single party can tamper with the records because transparency keeps all participants honest. The goal would be to enable the real time exchange of original supply chain events and documents through a digital infrastructure, or data pipeline, that connects the participants in a supply chain ecosystem.

In its white paper, INTTRA outlined three technology trends that would converge near term and move the ocean container shipping industry forward. These included network integration across systems, applications, and partners, with technology such as blockchain simplifying transaction processes and reducing costs.

Other technology could follow the real-time status of containers and cargo, with tracking devices connected by the Internet of Things, which would drive greater efficiencies while improving shipment planning. Artificial intelligence, that will enable companies to transition from big data to more accessible business analytics with higher probability outcomes.

In a recent commentary at JOC.com, Neil Barni, president of cloud-based rate management platform CargoSphere, said that technology solutions in the container shipping industry aimed at simplifying the common transactions, processes, and communication were not new.

However, he said there was a heightened focus on digitising the industry because intense competition and a slow-growing global economy was forcing businesses to work better and smarter than ever before, which means streamlining and simplifying processes with technology.

INTTRA noted in its white paper that shipping companies varied in sophistication of technology systems and data use, as well as system integration levels, a divide that would widen.

“Operational flow is only as efficient as its slowest link. Full automation industry-wide will take time. The digital divide between ports, terminals, countries, shippers, carriers, and container depots will likely expand if organizations don’t take advantage of standardized digital networks,” the report said.

INTTRA said service in the container shipping industry was as much about managing paper and regulatory processes as it was about transporting goods, and the most advanced players would streamline significant parts of their operations and start building digital networks with other information technology (IT)-savvy providers, increasing profitability and improving service delivery.

Over the next 15 years, IT would significantly transform ocean shipping and related logistics value chains, changing industry processes, participants, and the overall landscape. Advancements in digitization, integration across the transportation chain, and data flows would enable new business models, causing further competitive differentiation.

Contact Greg Knowler at greg.knowler@ihsmarkit.com and follow him on Twitter: @greg_knowler.