• ITVI.USA
    15,615.260
    270.480
    1.8%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.852
    -0.002
    -0.1%
  • OTRI.USA
    19.840
    0.040
    0.2%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,608.360
    280.700
    1.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.890
    0.070
    2.5%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.540
    -0.040
    -1.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.290
    0.030
    2.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.660
    0.010
    0.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.360
    0.030
    1.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    4.100
    0.080
    2%
  • WAIT.USA
    129.000
    2.000
    1.6%
  • ITVI.USA
    15,615.260
    270.480
    1.8%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.852
    -0.002
    -0.1%
  • OTRI.USA
    19.840
    0.040
    0.2%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,608.360
    280.700
    1.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.890
    0.070
    2.5%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.540
    -0.040
    -1.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.290
    0.030
    2.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.660
    0.010
    0.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.360
    0.030
    1.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    4.100
    0.080
    2%
  • WAIT.USA
    129.000
    2.000
    1.6%
American Shipper

The container terminal visibility blind spot

The Bay Area-based technology company Crux Systems is seeking to provide drayage providers and shippers with better visibility into the movement of containers through marine terminals.

   New technology providers are attacking the container visibility space with vigor these days, aiming to fill in traditional gaps with which transportation providers and shippers have long struggled.
   A recent entry into this mix is Burlingame, Calif.-based Crux Systems, which is seeking to provide drayage providers and shippers with better visibility into the movement of containers through marine terminals.
   Crux Systems CEO and co-founder Eric Klein took his cue from a problem he saw after years of working with the terminal operating system provider Navis: that visibility for those tasked with taking containers from ports to inland locations lagged way behind the visibility available of the port-to-port leg.
   So Klein and co-founder Jennifer Colvin set out to create a platform with a defined purpose and tight focus, one that would allow drayage companies, shippers and freight brokers to get real-time location of their containers within terminals.
   The idea is that information would be relayed in a way to help drayage providers better allocate their resources (for instance, knowing when a container is actually available for pickup and which terminal the container is at). And the knock-on effect would be that terminals would flow more smoothly.
   “I come from an MTO (marine terminal operator) background, knowing how important those nodes are toward visibility,” he said.
   Klein said data collection around where containers are in a terminal is not the issue – he worked in terminal telematics and knows what data is collected. The problem is that the information is not relayed to parties that are dependent on that data. In other words, a terminal operator might be using a terminal operating system (TOS) that captures real-time location of containers in the yard, but the TOS isn’t suited to share that data with other parties in the supply chain.
   “I saw what was happening with the inland community,” Klein said. “And I started thinking about when do they want that cargo delivered and how to expedite those processes. The way the terminals go about solving (container visibility), they solve it for themselves. You’re trying to prescribe medicine to someone that doesn’t have that problem.”
   TOSs tend to be self-contained systems that optimize things like yard operations and vessel stowage, not connective tissue between terminals and the broader goods movement ecosystem.
   “What’s the fundamental pain point?” Klein said. “You need one place to go to know where your container is. Even if I know the port of discharge, I need to know when to pick it up.”
   For Crux Systems, the initial problems drayage companies and shippers face can be even more basic than that.
   “An overwhelming number of BCOs don’t know the terminal their cargo is arriving at, and a lot don’t know which port it’s arriving at,” he said, based on data Crux Systems has collected. “There’s a lot of work deciding who’s right, and where that box really is. It’s a huge cost across parties.”
   For instance, a ship might be scheduled to call at APL’s terminal in Los Angeles, but might get rerouted to the Total Terminals facility in Long Beach. That’s not a huge geographic difference, but it creates operational havoc for drayage companies and BCOs, since their plans were based on their box arriving in Los Angeles.
   So Crux Systems’ platform allows a shipper or drayage provider to create container watchlists. The party sends Crux Systems a single container number or a list of numbers and those containers are tracked through any container terminal in North America (other than a few smaller terminals in Canada that Crux Systems is working to add to the platform).
   The search can be made by entering the container number through Crux Systems’ web portal or by emailing a list of container numbers in PDF or spreadsheet format. If email seems like an analog way for a modern technology provider to be receiving information from customers, that’s because most customers receive their container information in those formats.
   “So many of our customers get their container information from email sources,” he said. “So we just say forward that to us. Add it to your account and watchlist to set up monitoring. Perform the search and the system reports it back to you.”
   Pricing is straightforward. There’s no cost to set up an account, and public searches on the web portal are free. Users can track 25 containers a month for free, and above that, there’s a $2 per container per month fee.
   The broader model for Crux Systems was TripIt, an online travel itinerary organizer that lets users aggregate all their various confirmation information into a digital dossier.
Klein said there are drayage companies, beneficial cargo owners, and freight brokers using the platform currently, but his aim is to target shippers more directly with Crux Systems’ value proposition.
   “I think it’s the BCO that makes things move,” he said. “We have everybody engaged directly.”
Crux Systems collects its data from the terminals directly and augments that with additional data sources to cross-check it.
   “Terminals are ultimately the gatekeepers,” Klein said. “Customs and the lines can say it’s released, but if the terminal doesn’t release it, it’s not going out of the gate.”
   Much of the upfront work in building Crux Systems was spent working with the various terminals across North America to provide the data, and then developing the technology to normalize that data.
   “Every single terminal is very custom,” he said. “They’re different in how they expose their data, and also in what they provide. We solve that for everybody. The data is different from site to site and so we normalize that. We spent close to two years doing that.”
   The data flow across Crux Systems is also, as Klein put it, “bi-directional.” That means data is flowing from the terminals to the users of Crux Systems, but it also flows back to the terminal. So if a shipper and drayage company both track the movement of their container, they can better prepare for a more accurate pickup time. Information about the drayage provider’s planned time of arrival at the terminal would be relayed to the MTO, allowing the operator to stage the container and create better fluidity in the terminal. The shipper would be able to get a better estimated time of arrival for the box to reach its receiving facility as well.
   “We’re not looking at disruptive models,” Klein said. “It’s connecting information silos, the walled gardens of MTOs, of shipper TMSs. This is a platform that allows all of these parties to be collaborative.”
   Klein acknowledged the platform had to comprehensively cover North America, that users would be operating in multiple locations and would want the same terminal visibility across their operations. He said the tipping point for the usability came when all key North American terminals were included.
   He also said that in addition to targeting BCOs directly, Crux Systems can be seen as a data provider to broader visibility platforms.
   “Our focus is filling in a gap that they have in that visibility,” Klein said. “This is an underserved market, but it’s not an easy market to crack from a technology perspective. There’s a weird dichotomy of reluctance to change but a recognition that we have to change.”

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