Container Tracking Systems: Everything You Need To Know

An integral part of running a robust and agile supply chain is having end-to-end visibility over the entire supply chain network, particularly on the movement of your goods. While traditionally tracking containers required you to visit shipping companies’ websites and manually check for your container’s location, modern-day container tracking systems have been quite a game-changer. 

One key reason that container tracking has gained importance is that shipping goods is a long and complicated process. You would want to monitor your shipment to ensure that it reaches its destination on time in sound condition. If at all unpleasant surprises are to come your way, you can take timely mitigatory measures by exactly knowing the location of your shipment.

To better understand the benefits of container tracking software, it’s vital to comprehend party logistics and their respective container tracking considerations.

Different logistics parties involved in supply chain management:

Tracking shipping containers wouldn’t have been so complicated if only a single party and transportation mode were involved in getting the ships from its point of origin to its destination. If only one party was responsible for the shipment, then all it would take was to attach a small tracking device to the container. This device could pick up real-time location information and report to the vessel’s IT hub; it could be further transmitted via GPS to the satellite. 

Unfortunately, the process isn’t this simple as it involves four different logistics parties playing a different set of roles.

First-party (1PL): 

It’s the party that has manufactured the goods that need to be shipped using shipping containers. The first party is concerned with container tracking to a great extent as any delays or disruptions in their containers’ movement will translate to a disturbance in their supply chain and inconvenience to their customer. 

Second-party (2PL): 

The second party is the shipper or haulier. Shippers are concerned with container tracking as they are paid to move a shipment, and it is their responsibility to do so successfully. 

Third-party (3PL): 

The third-party is also known as a logistic provider or logistics service provider acts as a coordinator for a shipment on behalf of the first party by using various second party shippers. 

Fourth party (4PL): 

The fourth party is an independent body. It plays the role of helping the first party streamline their supply chain across various third-party logistic service providers.

While the first and second party are actively involved in tracking shipping containers, that’s not the case for the third and fourth parties. Let’s take a look at first and second party considerations as far as container tracking is concerned:

First-party considerations: 

Container tracking would have been effortless if the first party owned the shipping vessel or the container. As they don’t own the shipping containers, the biggest question is where exactly to place the tracking device. For instance, it might be first-party’s pallets in a container, but perhaps the container itself is owned by multiple parties. 

The only possible option a first-party can consider is attaching the device on the exterior of the container.  

Second-party considerations:

In this case, the liner owns the vessel and thus, can install the container tracking device. However, not all the containers that the ship carries are owned by the liner, and so, the party needs to be careful about where the device is placed. However, the liner has minimal incentive to track the container beyond the manifest levels and may not focus on the tracking front. 

What are the benefits of container tracking?

  1. Return On Investment:

When you consider the ROI for a container tracking system you have adopted, you need to calculate the cost associated with a disruption in your supply chain that may happen due to the inability to know where your containers are. Simply put, what value does getting automated real-time updates on the movement of your shipment add to your supply chain. 

For instance, can you make better decisions and avoid additional charges because you have overall visibility on your shipments’ movement? Are your customers benefiting from knowing exactly when to expect the cargo? These are some ways in which you can evaluate the value the system is providing your supply chain.

  1. Preventing losses and thefts:

Typically a liner is held responsible if a container gets stolen or lost while in transit. In this case, tracking devices can provide valuable information that can help regarding what may have possibly happened or gone wrong. 

  1. Helps avoid additional costs 

By being updated continuously with your container’s location, you can avoid charges such as demurrage and detention charge. Besides, being informed about your container’s location in real-time can help you avoid the additional operations costs as you will be better equipped to take corrective measures. These costs may emerge in light of a significant disruption in the process of shipping containers.

Questions to ask before selecting or building a container tracking system

  • To buy or build a container tracking system?

Both the approaches have their set of pros and cons, and it’s for you to decide which approach will best work for your organisation. 

Investing in an off-the-shelf system would mean you can have the system up and running within no time. However, if you decide to work with a third party and build a brand new system, don’t forget to pause and evaluate whether you’ll be able to create a system that will outweigh the off-the-shelf container tracking software. 

In such a case, the best way forward usually is to opt for a prebuilt system that can be customised to suit your company’s requirements. 

  • Is the system scalable enough? 

Remember that the system you choose will be in place for quite some time. It must be capable of handling your future requirements and such that it can be upscaled and upgraded easily. 

You can’t afford to spend your time and money on a system that will require costly updates now and then. So, chalk out your present and future requirements as accurately as possible before you choose a system. 

  • Is the software easy to integrate into your existing system? 

Chances are, you already have a system that you would want to integrate your container tracking system into. So, you need to consider how you will deal with IT integration. 

If your container tracking software fails to integrate correctly with your existing system, you won’t be able to leverage your new system fully. Thus, make sure that you ask the right questions and schedule a demo to check if the software can work in sync with your other systems.

Although shipping container tracking is not a straightforward process by nature, with the advent of online container tracking systems, you can easily keep track of all your international shipments in real-time on a single dashboard. 

Effortlessly real-time container tracking with GoComet

Want to know the live location of your container? Track your container for free now. 

If you would like to learn more about how GoComet’s container tracking system can automate tracking for you and give real-time updates, reach us here

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