ABC Logistics provides logistics services for fresh products: fruit and vegetables. The company works for both national and international clients and arranges the entire process of collecting products from the grower to preparing them for shipment. Annually ABC Logistics imports some 3,000 containers, of which the largest part arrives via the port of Rotterdam. According to Account Manager Remco Verwaal, even more containers will be imported in the future: ‘We are expanding and will be importing more reefer containers. This means that we’ll be getting busier.
At the same time, changing laws and regulations with respect to fruit and vegetables are resulting in additional tasks. If we can make time gains anywhere, we’ll do so.’
In the past, Verwaal used to have to collect information from various sources to track import containers and create schedules. ‘Constantly monitoring terminals’ websites and Portbase is time-consuming and not great. That’s why we really wanted one platform that contains the status information of our import containers. We started using Boxinsider in May and are now using this more and more intensively.’
Boxinsider bundles data from terminals and carriers. A large number of terminals in Rotterdam share their data. This makes it easier for Verwaal to determine vessels’ expected and actual arrival and departure times and to track import containers from the seagoing vessel to their departure from the terminal. ‘The reefer containers collected on Maasvlakte and other places contain fresh products. Retailers want to have these as quickly as possible. There is often a lot of pressure on our transport movements. In any event, we aim to give our clients a realistic estimate of when they will receive their container. That used to take us a lot of time.’
Boxinsider uses the ETA and ETD of vessels as forwarded by the terminals. According to Erik van de Kamp, Product Lead Digital Business Solutions at the Port Authority, these are the most reliable. Data sources such as those from terminals, the harbour master and public sources are used for the ATA and ATD. Boxinsider provides users both with an overview per container and an overview of the vessels on which the containers are located. Verwaal: ‘When I schedule far in advance, I only track vessels and not each individual container. That’s the quickest option. If I want to know more, I keep on clicking to see which containers are located on board of the vessel.’ Van de Kamp: ‘We have learned that the closer the vessel is to the port, the more users want to check things at container level.’
The fact that we don’t need to keep checking if the vessels are arriving on time makes things really easy for us
Van de Kamp manages the Port Authority team that is developing Boxinsider in an agile way, in consultation with users. Verwaal has noticed that the tool is becoming increasingly user friendly. ‘These days we can upload our containers ourselves. The Boxinsider team no longer has to do that for us, which saves time.’ Automatic push messages make Boxinsider even more user friendly.
Notifications include information about anomalies and delays are sent proactively to the user. ‘This is extremely useful for us’, stated Verwaal. ‘We can configure things ourselves so we’re kept informed by email of any ETA changes. The fact that we don’t need to keep checking in Boxinsider to see if the vessels are arriving on time makes things really easy for us.
Sending push messages is also a modern method. This enables us to offer our clients rapid container status information. We’re now also receiving gate-out notifications. This means we receive a message as soon as a container leaves the terminal.’
For the Port Authority, ABC Logistics was the best partner to test Boxinsider. Van de Kamp: ‘They are close to the port and collect containers via truck. That’s less complex than inland shipping and rail transport.’ Verwaal: ‘When we heard the name Boxinsider, we were interested straight away. We really benefit from fast, reliable information. Some days we process over 50 containers. It’s almost impossible to always have the right information at hand about each container. Every tool that helps us improve our services to clients is welcome.’
It would be fantastic if terminals shared their unloading schedules
The Port Authority aims to make Boxinsider an increasingly complete track and trace system. Van de Kamp: ‘Ideally, users will be able to follow their containers from start to finish with all the information associated with this. Dozens of parties are involved in the container chain. The challenge is to persuade all involved parties to share their data in a well-authorised way.
Luckily, a lot is already available in Portbase.’ In the long term, it will also be possible to use Boxinsider to track import and export containers. Users will be offered the opportunity to add references, such as the carriers they’re working with. So there will be even more status reports. The first empty depots and various inland terminals will also be sharing their data.
Van de Kamp: ‘This gives us a sound basis for using Boxinsider to track containers by rail and barge as well, which will increase transparency in the chain. ’ Verwaal: ‘It would be fantastic if terminals shared their unloading schedules. If I know that a vessel is to be unloaded on Wednesday evening, I can schedule the container to be collected on Thursday.’
‘I have a total overview of the containers we’re expecting, including ETA, ETD, discharge and gate-out. This is a huge help in formulating schedules for clients and inspectors. I can keep them informed and take targeted actions. If I see that a container has been unloaded, I can call a carrier to collect it. If I see that a container has left the terminal, I can schedule an inspection. A huge change compared with the former situation, which just wasn’t effective enough. It’s a fantastic tool. It almost feels as though we have developed it ourselves.’