Shippers and importers accustomed to “just in time” inventory flows got a rude lesson in logistics disruptions in recent years, as maritime ports around the U.S. suffered congestion and delays under the impact of variables like the pandemic, labor strife, and weather extremes.
Solutions to mitigate the risk of such events will require broad sharing of transportation data between trading partners, but many companies are hesitant to open their books and reveal those details, panelists said at a session titled “Tracking port performance amid supply chain chaos,” held at the CSCMP Edge trade show in Orlando.
The challenge highlights the difference between visibility data—such as information about when a specific cargo container can be picked up by a truck from the seaport—and data visibility, indicating the ease of companies’ access to that info, said Tyler Hughes, co-founder and chief technology officer at Vizion, a port statistics data provider.
Without improvements in both categories, traders will continue to wrestle with situations like the Port of Long Beach, a single port whose 13 different cargo terminals each has its own website, forcing importers and exporters to flip between computer screens in search of their shipments even as detention and demurrage charges grow, according to panelist Jim McCullen, CIO at Century Supply Chain Solutions.
Despite the tough challenge ahead, the industry has lately taken its first steps towards improvements, the panelists said. They listed initiatives such as increased use of application programming interfaces (APIs) to automatically link computer networks, cloud-based platforms with sharable data sets such as Snowflake, shipping information standards defined by the Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA), and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s data-sharing program called Freight Logistics Optimization Works (FLOW).