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so, the amount of data that require processing during a port
call should not be underestimated. Handling that increased
amount of information in a relatively short space of time
is stretching back ofce teams and, according to a recent
survey, is beginning to affect front-line customer service. In-
accurate invoices and late bills of lading are already being
cited as unintended consequences of managing such large
volumes of containers.
To manage these issues, a carrier has a stark choice—
employ more staff or introduce efciencies to its operations.
Paper-thin margins generated by low freight rates tend to
rule out an increase in headcount, and so owners are opting
to build in a level of intelligent automation.
Adapting to Meet Changing Needs
Alongside handling the actual processing and transmis-
sion of the data, automation allows for a necessary evolution
in practice by reducing errors and omissions that inevitably
creep in when manually processing such large quantities of
information. Valuable validation protocols can also be built
in; for example, good software will constantly be asking
questions as data are exchanged. Questions such as: Is this
my container; is this container really on my vessel; and does
the bill of lading and booking information show the cor-
rect freight and charges are vital if efciency and accuracy
are to be achieved. The software can also generate prompts
to ensure the terminal receives the required information on
time—this prevents the unwanted penalties often awarded
by terminals for late reporting.
From a customer perspective, automation will also en-
hance service levels and user experience. Linking the car-
rier's in-house software with a self-service facility will offer
customers up-to-the-minute visibility over their actual cargo
movements. Technology can also be harnessed to deliver
added-value services such as internet bookings, tracking
and scheduling, as well as creating more transparency be-
tween the operator, agent and user. Increasingly, these ser-
vices are expected by today's more sophisticated customer.
But it is not just the day-to-day operations that require so-
phisticated IT solutions to remain viable. Canny carriers are
utilizing IT to investigate and reduce costs in a number of
areas; maintenance and repair being a good example. The
average carrier-owned-container (COC) operator holds two
to three times the number of boxes in relation to the on-
board slots they have available. It is generally accepted that
a value of around $1 per box per day is about right to cover
all leasing, storage, repair and re-positioning costs. There-
fore, a COC with a total carrying capacity of 10,000 slots
(Top) Intelligent software gives full
visibility throughout your business.
(Bottom) A comprehensive work
desk for a port agent.