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Commentary: Key benefits of asset tracking systems for maritime shippers

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Note: FreightWaves occasionally publishes commentary from industry sources with expertise, information and opinion on current transportation topics. The opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and not necessarily those of FreightWaves. Submissions to FreightWaves are subject to editing.

The author of this commentary is Ekim Saribardak, a highly motivated IT professional who possesses a love and passion for web application and software projects. He has technical knowledge in telecommunications, GPS technology, web applications, digital marketing and product management. Saribardak has worked in both hardware and software fields for different businesses for over two decades.

The birth of GPS tracking technology has revolutionized the shipping and transport industries. Just a decade ago, shipping companies still used rudimentary methods to track containers and monitor cargo during international shipments. Considering the extent of seaborne trade – with a market size of $12 trillion in 2017 – these crude methods were entirely insufficient to manage the vast number of shipments. Asset tracking systems modernized the process, and for the first time allowed any business – regardless of its size or the industry in which it operates – to access accurate and actionable data on the location and condition of goods.

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There are multiple benefits of tracking sea-freight containers in real-time. In a sector as large as the shipping industry, where cargo theft and misplaced containers are all too common, it is essential for companies to keep track of their shipments. The latest developments in GPS technology allow the production of cost-efficient and low-energy consumption asset tracking devices. These devices can be easily attached to containers or other portable assets to monitor their location and condition, ultimately reducing the costs associated with cargo loss.

Today, more industries than ever before are being reshaped by some form of innovative system employing state-of-the-art technology. To benefit from these advanced systems, leading shipping enterprises including Maersk, Veritask and Ektank must constantly upgrade their IT and communication networks to accommodate new asset tracking solutions. The shipping industry is no exception when it comes to operational challenges and competition, but enterprises can gain a significant advantage over their rivals by integrating asset tracking solutions into their management structure.

Now, let’s look in more detail at the problems associated with the maritime shipping industry, and how asset trackers can improve the sector.

Improved coordination and operations

Moving assets from one place to another is an integral part of the transport and logistics industries. Knowing the location of assets in real-time allows movements to be coordinated more efficiently and knowing the condition of goods allows calculated decisions to be made to ensure they arrive unscathed. It is especially important for companies shipping fragile or perishable goods to be able to check the condition of cargo as well as its location, considering the distance traveled and the potential hardships encountered along the way.

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Enhanced asset safety

Cargo theft is all too common in the maritime shipping industry. Experienced criminals take advantage of the security vulnerabilities on board ships. There are often considerable costs, as the shipping company pays insurance fees and deal with any issues that may arise with customers. With asset tracking devices, location updates are sent at regular intervals, and the sensors onboard the device detect tampering or any changes in the condition of the cargo. The benefits of these devices make them ideal for protecting shipments – ensuring the shipments arrive unharmed and at their intended destination.

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Informing customers and information-sharing

Customer satisfaction is a priority for all businesses, but there are additional challenges to ensure a good customer experience when transporting cargo internationally. When a shipment arrives at its destination with mishandled or misplaced goods, the company’s reputation can be damaged, and customers’ trust harmed. Luckily, asset trackers are robust and contain advanced sensors and powerful antennae, ensuring they can transmit the location and condition of cargo under any circumstances. Regular status and location updates can help shipping companies inform their customers every step of the way.

Stolen asset recovery and GPS positioning

The FBI reports that $15 to 30 billion of cargo is stolen every year in the United States – and the problem is much worse in less developed parts of the world. What’s more, less than 20 percent of stolen cargo is recovered. Luckily, asset tracking systems offer a fighting chance against theft by broadcasting the exact location of an asset. Prompt action by the relevant authority greatly increases the chance of recovery, which certainly makes adopting asset tracking solutions worthwhile.

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A key feature of asset trackers is their power-saving technology. These small devices are designed to provide information for years without ever needing to be recharged, and they can be concealed within a container away from prying eyes. What’s more, locating assets is as simple as pressing a few buttons on a mobile device, and more advanced operations can be completed using a computer. Every procedure is designed to accommodate the massive challenges an international shipping company faces every day.