The global ocean shipping industry plays a vital role in international trade. For many years, industry stakeholders have relied on ocean trade and container-shipping platforms to manage their operations and ensure the efficient movement of goods around the world. Nowadays, many companies have started experiencing new challenges associated with the usage of such platforms, affecting the efficiency of their operations as well as overall costs and customer satisfaction.
In this article, we will explore why ocean trade and container-shipping platforms have become a cornerstone of the industry and why they need to be replaced with modern alternatives that retain all the advantages and overcome the challenges of the existing solutions.
Ocean Trade and Container-Shipping Platforms - Why Are They So Popular?
Today, when most supply chains are globalized and involve countless stakeholders, solutions that help participants to seamlessly facilitate communication, exchange documentation, and coordinate among various parties present significant opportunities to improve environmental and economic performance.
As a vital part of the global supply chain, maritime logistics stakeholders, like their counterparts in many other industries, are experiencing issues with high fragmentation, low transparency and visibility, as well as costly manual processes and operations. All of which result in poor coordination across the maritime logistics domain and lead to inefficiencies, longer transit times, delays, unreliable planning, and increased service costs.
Ocean trade platforms have been designed to simplify and streamline ocean container-shipping processes for various parties, including shippers, carriers, freight forwarders, and other logistics service providers. As a result, these platforms are meant to overcome the aforementioned challenges within the industry.
Although not explicitly named, such platforms can:
- Enable electronic booking with the top ocean carriers directly from a dedicated interface.
- Establish a single connection point to various carriers and NVOCCs, allowing for the digital transmission of shipping instructions and real-time container status tracking.
- Reduce errors and document processing time by eliminating manual operations and improving communications.
- Enable efficient supply chain management through better visibility as well as real-time container status events and alerts.
- Facilitate communication and collaboration among the different parties involved in the shipping process.
Ocean trade and container-shipping platforms allow companies to book and track shipments from a single interface as well as access a network of ocean carriers, ensuring a better exchange of data across the domain. As a result, these platforms have become a vital component in the IT stacks of the stakeholders mentioned above and play a key role in global ocean trade today.
The Industry’s Need for Innovation
In a modern world shaped by technological advancements, the need for innovation is paramount. Looking at the existing ocean trade platforms, it is clear that they have served their purpose admirably; however, they struggle to keep pace with the evolving demands of the shipping industry. Hence, increasingly fewer companies want to use platforms from the past, which are often called “legacy systems”. It is common in any industry or vertical for platforms and solutions designed decades ago to be less flexible and agile than newer options. As time goes on, factors such as costs, increased downtime, decreasing customer service, and inflexibility begin to snowball. Thus, the need to migrate away from these outdated systems becomes increasingly pressing.
As many relevant parties indicate, the biggest problem with legacy platforms is their rigidity. Specifically, companies purchase expensive solutions where, in the best scenario, only half of the functionality is applicable to their data integration needs. This happens because the platforms providers attempt to serve different segments of the ocean shipping industry with a single common solution. The worst thing about this approach is that, as a rule, there is no way to tailor it or build additional functionality via customer requests. These incumbent solutions are often hard-coded to serve only a single function.
Another issue is the technology a platform is capable of working with. Initially designed for graphical interface usage, legacy platforms are seldom good with integrations and rather compete with other GUIs, such as those of TMS or visibility portals. Technology-wise, these platforms are EDI-based, meaning they are not designed to work out-of-the-box with modern ERPs, TMSs, WMSs, or any of the other API-centered solutions that are currently becoming the new norm for the industry. Of course, there is always a set of the most popular systems that can still be connected easily, but as a rule, integrating a legacy platform with a modern system is a painful process requiring investments in skilled talent and technology that is capable of bridging the gap between the EDI and API worlds.
In addition, due to the economic turmoil that occurred over the last several years, many solution providers (including the most famous ones in the LogTech market) went through either serious optimization processes or mergers and acquisitions that triggered massive layoffs and significant expense cuts. As a result, product support and customer service were negatively affected. Sometimes, it can take years for a solution vendor (provider) to implement a software change or update that is vital for a customer. That’s not even mentioning the endless email communications and unclear project timelines if someone needs to scale existing connectivity or bring a new trading partner or system into their ecosystem.
Last but not least, users of one famous legacy shipping platform recently faced an unexpected price increase. This could be due to their own operational costs being very high, or because they are trying to milk the market before their product becomes obsolete. The company in question decided to adjust its pricing model. As a result, instead of the old per booking payment model, users will now be charged per container event. Considering that the average industry booking is 2.3 containers, the new pricing will cause monthly invoices to rise to at least double their previous level.
As time goes by and customer requirements change, legacy ocean trade platforms are losing popularity. As a result, today, none of the leading players in the LogTech market can be characterized as bringing seamless connectivity and continuous digitalization to the ocean trade industry and its stakeholders.
At this point, you might be wondering: if these platforms have such massive drawbacks, why do so many companies still use them? The answer is simple. Looking back, we can see that some of the incumbents only secured their market share because they were owned or directly controlled by shipping lines, giving them monopoly status in terms of their data access. This monopoly made them the preferred choice for users looking to collaborate with these companies. Additionally, this made them desirable partners for LogTech solution providers also seeking access to the data from those shipping lines.
This monopoly, coupled with the shipping industry's historical resistance to innovation, created significant dependence on these platforms. Consequently, users and vendors prefer to stick with these platforms as long as possible to maintain their established processes and avoid substantial changes to their workflows. However, there is always a point at which the drawbacks outweigh the benefits and companies look for a replacement. At this point, they always encounter another issue: shifting from your key system to an alternative requires a comprehensive digital strategy, sufficient technical knowledge and skills, and, most critically, the existence of a reliable solution that is capable of not only replacing the existing functionality, but overcoming industry challenges, including high costs, a lack of standardization and interoperability, and cyber security concerns. If companies lack any of these elements, they tend to slow down their migration process and continue using their existing solutions.
Introducing Innovative Alternatives That Are Capable of Retaining the Advantages and Overcoming the Challenges of Legacy Platforms
As seen above, there are many reasons why businesses may want to consider alternative platforms to book ocean shipments and track their movement. After all, everyone wants to reach maximum efficiency in their operations.
To enter a new era of efficiency and agility, the ocean shipping industry needs to find innovative alternatives to existing platforms, while ensuring the ease of accessing data, improved visibility, and better costing (ROI).
To address this need, the LogTech market offers several modern solutions that aim to overcome the drawbacks of so-called legacy platforms while preserving their benefits. Modern alternatives are designed to streamline operations and provide real-time data; thus, offering a solution to the inefficiencies and limitations of the global ocean shipping industry. These alternatives enhance security, minimize disruption risks, and, due to unparalleled flexibility, adapt to the changing landscape of global trade. What’s most critical is that, offered as fully managed services, such solutions address all the aforementioned concerns and mitigate the risks associated with shifting from one system to another. The migration path must be designed and managed professionally.
One such solution is Youredi, the leading provider of fully managed data connectivity and integration service for logistics and the global supply chain.
Youredi enables quick data connectivity and process integration between trading partners/systems of any type. Furthermore, Youredi combines the advantages of LogTech platforms and DIY integrations while avoiding drawbacks such as high costs and rigid product roadmaps. The company is also known for listening to the needs and requirements of its customers and partners in the long term.
A unique combination of integration expertise, an understanding of the domain's business needs, a vast ecosystem of pre-connected parties, and the flexibility of Youredi's proprietary integration platform (iPaaS) enables the company to provide efficient solutions that cover the information exchange for all major steps of the execution and visibility processes — from booking requests, transport documents, and sailing schedules to tracking events and invoices. As a result, Youredi brings value to all stakeholders in the ocean container logistics domain.
The global ocean shipping industry currently stands at a pivotal moment. While legacy ocean shipping platforms have served as reliable workhorses for the industry, the call for innovation is resounding. Modern alternatives offer a pathway forward that retains the advantages of established networks while addressing challenges with inefficiency and vulnerability. To successfully navigate into the future, companies must explore these innovative solutions and position themselves for a more efficient, secure, and sustainable shipping landscape.
Get in touch with Youredi’s integration experts to start planning the next steps to migrate your ocean connectivity into the modern age. Kindly keep in mind that you are not alone on this journey.