Let’s start with Standards
The Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) is rising to the challenge of visibility across ocean freight with ambitious initiatives. One of the most inspiring accomplishments in logistics digitalization recently, is the push to get over half of their container line members to start adopting, or to plan to soon adopt, the DCSA’s track-and-trace standards. In terms of interoperability, this is a big leap forward for building visibility across sea cargo transport.
Who is the DCSA?
The DCSA is on a mission to shape the digital future of container shipping by acting as the industry’s collective voice and working towards alignment and standardisation. Enabling transparent, reliable, easy to use, secure and environmentally friendly container transportation services through setting frameworks for effective, universally adoptable solutions and innovation.
Their open source standards are free for everyone to use. These have been developed from input of member carriers, industry stakeholders and technology experts from other industries.
The DCSA comprises nine members.
Regarding the association’s track-and-trace standards, this is the breakdown of who is onboard and who isn't.
Who has already started implementing the standards or commits to doing so soon:
- CMA CGM,
- Evergreen Line,
- Mediterranean Shipping Co. (MSC),
- Ocean Network Express, and
- Yang Ming
Who has left to do so:
- Maersk, and
There is a clear need for shipping lines to make it easier for both shippers and forwarders to track containerized cargo across the span of service providers handling their cargo, regardless of visibility platform used. By getting five of nine players on the program, it looks like we’re progressing in getting container lines to cooperate on more friendly terms.
What this means for customers is the ability to track containers through five shipping phases:
- post-ocean and
- post shipment.
Through the API, shippers can query carrier systems from any established tech platform and receive track-and-trace information in a common and easily understandable format.
Minding interoperability as the end goal
The consortium released its free track-and-trace information model and interface standards in January 2020. As reported by the JOC.com, just shortly after, two logistics systems integration specialists announced their partnerships with DCSA and their pursuit to help shippers and forwarders adapt their systems to the new standards.
“Digital transformation of the container shipping industry, and the resulting improvements in efficiency and customer experience, simply can’t happen without even more widespread adoption of digital standards,” DCSA CEO Thomas Bagge said in a statement. “DCSA’s focus for 2021 is to promote adoption among all stakeholders.”
Should the DCSA achieve their 2021 mission and have all carriers implement the standards, the new interoperability could improve visibility, customer service and operational efficiency. However, as Nicolas Sekkaki, executive vice president for IT, digital, and transformation at CMA CGM, has pointed out: “But adopting standards and collaborating across the industry requires more than standards alone, it requires a cultural change in the industry which will hopefully start now.”
Digital trends in logistics stem from answering demand
One of the most obvious digital trends in logistics is the startup boom. We’ve all noticed a rise in the number of tech service providers popping up, offering a plethora of solutions to tackle industry pain points: visibility, transparency, efficiency, and even pollution. Acting on the strong demand for logtech solutions in an old fashioned industry full of opportunities, venture capital took a keen interest in the logistics industry in 2015.
Since 2015, around $28 billion has been invested in logistics startups by venture capitalist money. In the multimodal visibility market alone, the tech providers project44 and FourKites have both announced $100 million funding rounds in the last few months. project44 just acquired Ocean Insights, a container visibility specialist, in March. According to an analysis by McKinsey, most funding goes to startups working on last-mile and freight platforms.
Privately funded platforms also embracing digitalization in logistics
While there are many venture capital funded startups, there are also plenty of self-funded tech companies as well. One example is the 7ConNetwork agency network and shipment booking system. Embracing the digitalization of the industry, the 7ConNetwork has been set up to provide the freight forwarder agency network concept with a new tech spin. Through strategic tech partnerships, 7ConNetwork offers its members a unique opportunity to increase competitiveness, win business, access lower rates, gain visibility and overall improve operations.