It’s chaos at the ports right now. Ocean shipping is experiencing unprecedented delays that are costing shippers thousands of dollars per container per day and could run deep into 2023. Container shipping, dry bulk, liquefied natural gas — it doesn’t matter how or what companies are shipping because rates are spiking across the board.
With no end to the messy situation in sight, knowing when delays will happen becomes more important than ever for carriers. With that in mind, supply chain visibility platform FourKites announced AI-powered enhancements to its Dynamic Ocean solution, enabling it to provide ETAs that are up to 40% more accurate than carrier-generated ETAs. The company is also upgrading its service that monitors demurrage and detention fees.
“We’re taking in more data points that accommodate for more of the realities that happen in the entire supply chain ecosystem and using that in our algorithms to predict better ETA,” Vice President of Products Chris Stauber told Modern Shipper on Tuesday.
FourKites’ ETA forecasting pulls from unfiltered “dirty” data that the company receives from a variety of sources. The company’s patented Smart Forecasted Arrival technology incorporates voyage, routing and captain data, 5 terabytes of historical data from vessels in the automatic identification system (AIS) — essentially a GPS for the ocean — and 6 million port-to-port trips across 100,000 shipping lanes around the world. Stauber says this is a dramatic increase over the number of data sources the company used in the past.
With these enhancements, FourKites will be able to generate automated and predictive ETAs that are 20% to 40% more accurate than those delivered by carriers. The ETAs can be applied to 100% of a company’s ocean shipments worldwide.
Additionally, FourKites is overhauling its mitigation system for demurrage and detention fees. Typically, a customer has a contract with the port that sets a window for how long a container can be held there, but with delays now becoming a regular feature of the shipping ecosystem, that can result in carriers racking up fees.
As part of the enhancements to Dynamic Ocean, FourKites is introducing a notifications system that can alert customers when they are running out of time to move their containers. The solution also incorporates exception dashboards, which monitor the containers most at risk for detention or demurrage fees and provide real-time rerouting and dwell time notifications, and analytics dashboards, which provide performance trends by lane, carrier, stop and other metrics. FourKites also allows customers to report what they pay in fees, providing other customers with a prediction of what they might owe in subsequent fees.
“It’s a risk profile. And the idea of a good risk profile is to identify and highlight the risk before it actually materializes. And then you’ve got a good fighting chance of being able to not incur those extra fees,” Stauber said. “We’re going to know when these things are going to start and end, and half the battle is just understanding when that clock starts ticking. So a more accurate ETA is going to help you with that.”
FourKites’ Dynamic Ocean enhancements come in direct response to the shipping crisis causing unprecedented rates and wait times at ports.
“Consumers and buyers want to know when their stuff’s going to get there. And we know, in today’s market, that transportation is riddled with all kinds of constraints and blockages and congestion and other kinds of challenges that make it very difficult for customers to be able to figure out exactly when their materials are going to arrive,” Stauber said.
Knowing when shipments arrive is absolutely essential for carriers because they need to arrange for their containers to be unloaded if they don’t want to get hit with demurrage or detention costs. At the same time, though, carriers are wary of sharing too much proprietary data.
According to Stauber, carriers do convey some transit information to customers, but “when you really look at what the actual transit time is, your mileage varies greatly. And as a result of that, this information in its aggregate becomes something that people get a little concerned about,” he said.
“Yet, that’s what you need in order to be able to get any kind of predictability in the system.”
Whereas in the past customers typically got their ETAs directly from the carrier, there’s been a gradual shift toward relying on positioning data from the AIS. FourKites, Stauber explained, has expanded on that data, taking AIS positioning information and combining it with an array of historical and current data sources.
“Say you have a really good algorithm that does some kind of calculation. If you give it poor data, then you get a poor result; if you give it great data, then you get a great result,” Stauber, who once worked in data science, told Modern Shipper. “This is one of those things where we need to be, and are, building more and more data sources and more ways to validate what those data sources have in them.”
Stauber said that the technology available to FourKites today has come a long way from what was available even five years ago. With data from the AIS, for example, FourKites is able to use “geofencing” technology that can demarcate certain areas or zones.
For example, he explained, “Now you can tell the difference between when the vessel arrives at San Pedro Bay versus when it arrives at a berth in San Pedro at the port.”
FourKites customers don’t need to do much besides sit back and relax to take advantage of the new enhancements; all customers who are subscribed to the company’s ocean visibility applications will automatically receive the upgrade.
“This is a pretty significant advancement in the application and both features. But we’re not done,” Stauber asserted. “And as we see the market continuing to evolve and things continuing to change, FourKites is making heavy investments in this part of our product.”