Bridging the Visibility Gap with TradeLens

Ocean freight visibility is a critical element of operational standards for any supply chain stakeholder. To automate and optimize workflows, essential players need a solid foundation of data quality. Having the right data points available at the right time can help mitigate risks and disruptions up and down the ecosystem. But the reality is that visibility gaps are far too commonplace in the industry, and data discrepancies amongst members of the ecosystem threaten the quality of service provided.

With black swan events, demand spikes, and unprecedented pressure on supply chains, 2020 saw a drop in schedule reliability in the container industry by 40 percent according to Sea-Intelligence. Supply chain disruptions increased by more than 300% between 2019 and 2021, from 3,700 cases in 2019 to 11,642 in 2021 according to the Global Maritime Forum and the criticality of obtaining the best data available has become paramount to managing today’s supply chains.

TradeLens believes that with the right trusted technology and the implementation of industry-wide data standards, an alternative solution to today’s visibility challenges can provide transparency and restore confidence in reliable information. 

Source: Sea-Intelligence

Rethinking resource-intensive processes

Many variables go into monitoring container movement for the multiple parties involved in physically moving containers. They want more data, and they want it earlier to plan their assets. As a result, this would mean more efficient container movements through the ecosystem which ultimately benefit the exporters, importers, and freight forwarders. Data points like real-time location and the ETA of cargo are vital to mitigate port congestion, backlogging of vessels, inland rail capacity constraints, and supply chain bottlenecks.

For freight forwarders, a lot of that information is contingent on the data supplied by the ocean carriers, and depending on how carriers perform their operations, they are limited by what tracking capabilities their services provide. To meet their customers’ expectations, logistics providers are ready to expand their visibility solutions and integrate their operations on an open, neutral network to monitor ocean shipments seamlessly.

Partial container shipment data

With data discrepancies across the ecosystem and the lack of standards, often those reliant on the data have looked to additional sources to compile an aggregated truth like IoT devices, geofencing, and AIS data. All of which were initially designed for purposes other than pure tracking of containers.

The automatic identification system, known as AIS, is a fundamental information source for real-time tracking of international vessel movements that provides context to the supply chain ecosystem at large. Back in 2021 news outlets reported on the potential national security concerns over China’s new law which blocked public access to shipping location data, impacting international cargo traffic visibility significantly.

Source: Business Insider

There are disadvantages to geofencing as well. The application of geofencing technology is a generalized solution that behaves as a virtual geographical “fence” implemented for tracking container berthing terminals. The problem with relying on this source alone is its inability to capture significant data points such as carrier release, terminal release, and, in some scenarios, even customer clearance.


Multi-source visibility on one platform

Data quality is contingent on all participants of the supply chain. Each possesses a different piece of the puzzle. Sometimes, there are missing or conflicting pieces, and other times, it is challenging to fit them together. Traditionally, different standards have meant different data points captured across ocean carriers. Part of what our trusted technology does is sift through all those pieces and present the best data, tailored to the process at hand. 

The TradeLens platform aggregates data from multiple sources to identify and fill in the visibility gaps that put port and terminal operatives at risk of fighting off congestion and cargo delays. Data sources like terminal operating systems, and port community systems assist in providing context for vessel and cargo data. TradeLens applies operational intelligence on raw data produced by the entire ecosystem to present visibility data that is rich with meaning and reliability.  


In this way, our data quality solution breaks down longstanding data and processing silos that exist among trading partners and simplifies the flow of container insights that accompanies every shipment.

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