It was an odd confluence of events. Just as we at FourKites were preparing to announce our acquisition of Haven and introduce Dynamic Ocean® — the next-generation ocean freight container tracking solution that combines document management, collaboration, support for bookings and real-time ocean track and trace in one platform — the Ever Given, a container ship longer than the Eiffel Tower, ran aground in the Suez Canal, blocking the flow of some $9 billion worth of goods that passes through this vital commerce waterway each day.
The Ever Given is finally afloat and the world’s container ships are once again sailing through the canal, but the repercussions of this disruption to global supply chain shipping will echo for some time. The incident highlighted both our dependence on international ocean shipping, as well as the opacity and lack of modernization that bedevils this indispensable mode of global freight transportation.
The situation at the Suez Canal served to validate our fundamental approach with Dynamic Ocean: When it comes to ocean shipping, container track and trace alone won’t bring end-to-end visibility.
In other words, in building an advanced supply chain solution for ocean freight shipping, the playbook we built for over-the-road and other modes of transport couldn’t just be “tweaked” for ocean container tracking. We had to start anew.
Fortunately, when building Dynamic Ocean we had the benefit of innovating on top of several advanced technologies gained through our acquisition of Haven Inc., a well-established leader in international container shipping. What’s more, we didn’t just get best-in-class ocean track and trace technology. We got a team of true experts who understand ocean shipping logistics deeply, and who share our vision for modern, transparent, collaborative supply chains.
Think about this: In 2021, half of international ocean shippers still do not use container tracking software to manage their freight! The numbers are similarly abysmal when it comes to managing quotes, bookings, documents and various other aspects of ocean freight operations.
The ramifications are profound — and profoundly expensive. Take ocean freight document management as just one of many thorny issues. The documentation requirements of ocean shipping are onerous and byzantine. If a shipper hasn’t completed the right set of documents for any given port, they may as well be grounded on a sandbank. While containers sit idle, government fines and detention and demurrage fees regularly mount into the millions of dollars. And as those fines and fees rise, so does customer dissatisfaction with shippers.
All of which reinforces my earlier point. While it’s really important to be able to track ocean freight containers in real time, it’s insufficient on its own to break through the many logjams that regularly bring the flow of ocean freight to a halt.
While far too many shippers have resigned themselves to manual and archaic workflows, Haven customer International Forest Products (IFP), a global leader and North America’s largest trader of forest products commodities, understood there had to be a better way. IFP is ranked as the seventh-largest exporter by TEU volume in the United States, shipping 100,000 TEUs of cargo per year. (TEU is ocean shipping lingo for “twenty-foot equivalent unit,” or one twenty-foot long container.) IFP also imports 15,000 TEUs per year, with an additional 50,000 TEUs of products and materials being moved externally from country to country.
IFP’s active collaboration and feedback have been indispensable to the development of Haven’s solution. Following a series of disappointments with other container tracking software solutions, IFP turned to Haven to help them manage a growing and complex operation. They needed a flexible software solution that provided pervasive real-time visibility, while also being robust enough to manage bookings and ocean freight documents. And they wanted a partner that understood their business and the dynamics of international container shipping and global trade.
Haven has helped IFP gain visibility into its complex supply chain and identify where the problems are so the company can react quickly and efficiently to mitigate issues. Booking times have been reduced from hours to 30 minutes. All of the complex documentation is now organized and easily accessible in one central hub. Multiple systems are a thing of the past, with IFP viewing Haven as its “one-stop-shop” for full freight visibility, and a huge leap forward in terms of the digitalization of ocean freight.
IFP is a natural innovator and visionary — one whom other international container shippers would do well to emulate. The future of ocean freight management is digital, connected, collaborative and automated. And as Dynamic Ocean illustrates, real-time visibility is but one component of a new generation of ocean freight shipping solutions that promises big leaps in efficiencies, savings and better customer relations. We are so excited for this new chapter, and thrilled to welcome the Haven team to the FourKites family.