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Rotterdam boosts container tracking and transparency

Europe’s largest port unveils new track-and-trace system for more efficient container management.

The Port of Rotterdam Authority has announced the launch of Boxinsider, a “reliable and easy-to-use track-and-trace solution for container cargo” that allows users to see where their containers are at any given moment. “Shippers and forwarders like to keep a constant eye on their supply chain,” the Port says. “They need to know exactly when their containers are set to arrive, what their status is at the terminal or if there are any delays or other hiccups that require swift action.”

However, “most shippers, freight forwarders and other users”, it continues, “still collect information manually from a range of websites about where their containers are located”. As well as being time-consuming, such an approach is also prone to errors with the gathered information potentially incomplete or incorrect. “Not having access to reliable up-to-date information can lead to very costly planning mistakes,” the Port notes. “That’s why we have come up with Boxinsider.”

By combining and cross-checking “container events data from multiple sources”, including status information from container vessels and terminals, Boxinsider enables users to determine expected and actual arrival and departure times for vessels, as well as container unloading and departure times at the Port’s container terminals. In addition to providing users with “direct access to the information they need”, Boxinsider, through its online dashboard, also offers a “single point of truth” by which shippers and forwarders can easily keep tabs on their containers “from port to door and vice versa”.

As well as allowing users to “monitor their cargo flow and make planning adjustments accordingly”, the system also provides ‘smart notifications’ that warn of possible deviations and delays. As a result, users are able to make timely operational adjustments to manage exceptions and “reduce unpleasant planning surprises”. Furthermore, the system, which can work as a stand-alone application or be readily integrated into existing workflows through an application programming interface (API), also promises users significant time savings. Indeed, by eliminating the need to manually search and retype container event data, Boxinsider, the Port calculates, can cut the amount of time spent tracking containers by between 20% and 50% compared to conventional methods.

“When I order a book online, I can almost follow the package live,” says Port Authority CEO Allard Castelein. “With Boxinsider, we are now presenting a similar solution for containers. By developing digital applications, we are making our port even more efficient, safer and more reliable. Solutions like Boxinsider are good examples of this transition and so they are a perfect match with our ambition to be the world’s Smartest Port.”

So far, the response from industry has been positive. Commenting on the system, Remco Verwaal, account manager with Poeldijk-based ABC Logistics, one of the system’s ‘launching customers’, states: “Boxinsider gives us – quickly and with minimal effort – a clear picture of the containers that we can expect at the various Rotterdam terminals. It really is a very user-friendly application.”

In a similar vein, the Port of Rotterdam earlier this year developed OnTrack, a new application that, it says, “offers real-time insight into rail freight flows within the Port of Rotterdam and the handling thereof at the terminals”. As with Boxinsider, this particular tool is intended to increase visibility by combining data from the different points and parties along the ‘rail chain’ while making it accessible via a central online overview. In so doing, it greatly enhances the effectiveness of a user’s planning abilities while enabling them to anticipate schedule disruptions. Both systems form part of the Port Authority’s broader drive to implement what it terms “digital solutions to streamline processes in the port area”.

About Author

Brian Dixon is a business and industry journalist with more than 20 years' experience writing about ports and logistics. A member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, he has covered stories on six continents. He divides his time between the UK and East Asia