Collaboration on a shared platform allows both ports and carriers to be better prepared, but there are obstacles to the maritime industry recognising its value
Collaboration in real-time between different supply chain stakeholders could 'transform' the industry – although obstacles to overcome include a lack of data standards and reluctance in the maritime industry to share data.
XVELA, an independently operated subsidiary of Navis, has developed a maritime collaboration platform in the cloud to improve data flow and visibility between terminals and ocean carriers. It currently has over 40 terminals using its product in various Phase One rollouts of the solution, from Europe to Asia and South America.
XVELA chief technology officer Robert Inchausti explained “The idea with XVELA is to enable the carrier and terminal to collaborate in real-time on planning and executing vessel calls, from stowage to berth management.
“Currently, the carrier creates a plan for each call and the terminal makes their own plan, but there are often a lot of differences and not much, if any visibility into one another’s intentions. In XVELA, both plans are uploaded to the same cloud so they can see each other’s plan, address any differences, and collaborate to optimise the plan for the current terminal conditions, thus creating the best plan for both of them.”
He highlighted that the quality of the data “must be consistent and shared in a timely fashion for them to compare and analyse information”.
While cloud technology has been available for 10-15 years, the maritime industry has been slower on the uptake than other industries. Mr Inchausti explained “The maritime industry has traditionally been reluctant to share data.”
"C-level executives are starting to get it and understand the need for a shared platform; they now understand the value of this. But further down it is harder to get the message across"
He said “Cloud technology needs to catch up” in the maritime industry. “C-level executives are starting to get it and understand the need for a shared platform; they now understand the value of this. But further down it is harder to get the message across.
“The ramp up has been slower than we thought, and it is more about change management than the availability of technology, because the technology is there – it’s already being deployed around the world.”
And indeed, the industry is starting to see the value of collaborating on a shared platform as they realise it is a “win-win, with not one party pushing one thing, but where both parties share.”
Speaking more about the benefits of XVELA, he said “The terminal is better prepared as they have critical information from the carrier earlier than ever before. They can then collaborate with carriers right in XVELA to improve the crane split, adjust the plan based on certain conditions such as crane breakdowns, and potentially increase the opportunity for dual cycling and/or twin moves.”
“The carriers benefit from improved visibility as well,” he continued. “XVELA provides visibility into crane activity at the terminal, an aspect of the vessel call that was traditionally a ‘black hole’ for the carriers. They can get automatic notifications of any discrepancies between the plan and the actual container placements, which can eliminate potential departure delays. Carriers and downstream terminals also gain a continuously updated ETC as terminal operations progress, so all parties can be better informed, for example, around ‘cut and run’ decisions.
He pointed out this had a knock-on effect further into the supply chain. “It allows carriers to get closer to shippers and provide better customer service. Knowing which container is on which vessel and knowing whether each container made or missed the connection at transhipment ports is very valuable to shippers and will help the efficiency and reduce waste in the industry.”
Furthermore, the platform allows collaboration around berth window management. “If a carrier knows that another ship is at berth longer than expected, they can make better decisions – they can decide in advance whether to slow down and save fuel, for example,” Mr Inchausti explained.
He said both carriers and terminals already using the platform had acknowledged the value of collaborating, and both agreed that due to better planning, terminals had seen productivity levels increase by 10-15%.
Nine leading ocean carriers and terminal operators have signed a formal statement of intent for an MoU to form a consortium to develop the Global Shipping Business Network (GSBN) – an open digital platform based on distributed ledger technology.
The participants include ocean carriers CMA CGM, COSCO, Evergreen Marine, OOCL and Yang Ming; terminal operators DP World, Hutchison Ports, PSA International Pte Ltd, Shanghai International Port; and software solutions provider CargoSmart. The new platform will establish a digital baseline that aims to connect all stakeholders including carriers, terminal operators, customs agencies, shippers and logistics service providers to enable collaborative innovation and digital transformation in the supply chain.
A statement from CargoSmart explained “The container shipping industry is often characterised by disparate processes that take place across both physical and digital domains. Companies are increasingly looking towards digital technologies to resolve siloed shipment management procedures and disruptive information gaps.
“The consortium will offer a forum to address these challenges, explore cross-industry opportunities, and empower future innovation and insights. The consortium’s leading members intend to collaboratively develop the platform and establish standards to facilitate the seamless sharing of documents and data across all stages of the shipping lifecycle.”
The GSBN will enable the shipping industry to digitally transform and to prepare for innovative supply chains. Based on blockchain technology, the new platform will offer the following benefits:
The GSBN's first planned application will allow shippers to digitise and organise their dangerous goods documents and automatically connect with relevant parties to streamline the approval process. The application is scheduled to be available in December 2018.
“With the vision of a truly open blockchain platform for the industry, the GSBN will be key to the success of establishing a sustainable blockchain ecosystem for all stakeholders in the supply chain. OOCL is very excited to be a part of this highly collaborative environment that can facilitate the cross-pollination of ideas towards even more innovative business models and solutions for our customers,” said OOCL chief executive Andy Tung.
Pacific International Lines (PIL) is collaborating with IBM Singapore in another blockchain trial to design and create an electronic bill of lading which will “significantly enhance” the documentation process in supply chain management.
The PIL/IBM collaboration was supported by Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, Singapore Shipping Association, Infocomm Media Development Authority, Singapore Customs (National Trade Platform), and Bank of China Limited Singapore Branch.
A statement explained that traditionally, a bill of lading is a physical document which banks rely on to provide trade financing. The bill of lading is usually mailed to various parties leaving it “open to fraud, loss of the original document, and document handling costs resulting in much inefficiency across the supply chain”.
To improve the process, PIL and IBM have proposed using an electronic bill of lading (e-BL) to streamline and replicate the paper trail online on a blockchain ledger created by IBM.
The e-BL will do away with the hard copy paper trail, cut unnecessary handling costs and the possibility of fraud.
PIL executive director Lisa Teo said “This is a big step forward for PIL. As an international shipping company, we believe we have a role to play in enhancing efficiencies within the intermodal transport logistics ecosystem. Working with a complex logistic network comprising ports and terminals, agencies, government entities, banks and shippers; systematic supply chain management is increasingly important to lower costs through the chain by cutting unnecessary expense, movements and handling.
“…The use of blockchain technology to allow for the direct exchange of documents and information via the decentralised network to boost transparency, eliminate disputes, forgeries and unnecessary risks will be key for this industry to progress.”
The team plans to extend the e-BL to shadow an end-to-end shipment in real-time. PIL said this would be in line with its ultimate goal of creating an intermodal transport logistics ecosystem which incorporates blockchain.