Industry association adopts track and trace standard

Track and trace shipments

Five of the nine major container lines that make up the Digital Container Shipping Association have agreed to adopt its track and trace standards, paving the way for better cross-carrier visibility of cargoes.

Published at the beginning of the past year, the standards can be implemented by carriers, shippers and third parties to enable cross-carrier shipment tracking using a common terminology for data and events.

By using an application programming interface and establishing a fixed set of events, carriers and customers can use the same tools for track and trace, rather than have bespoke connections to a wide variety of external parties. The data model ensures track and trace data definitions are consistent for all users.

The track and trace standard comprises an information model and interface standards that can be freely downloaded from the organisation's website, with API definitions also publicly available.

Mediterranean Shipping Co, Ocean Network Express, CMA CGM, Yang Ming and Zim have all now committed to using the standard in developing their own track and trace services.

“While a variety of digital innovations exist in the maritime industry, MSC believes that new solutions will only be fit for purpose if they can be operated across multiple carriers, service providers and geographies,” said André Simha, chief digital and information officer at MSC and chairman of the DSCA supervisory board. “Collaboration is essential in this regard, so we can establish the same technology standards throughout the industry. “The track and trace standards establish a consistent method for exchanging data between carriers and customers. We’re proud to be one of the first to implement these new standards with our customers, thus shaping the technological future of the shipping industry.”

CMA CGM vice-president of IT and digital Nicolas Sekkaki said that the standardisation work being done by the DCSA would enable a “seamlessness” that had been difficult to achieve due to lack of interoperability in the past. “Digital standards will not only enable this interoperability, they will make it easier for carriers to achieve operational efficiency,” he said. “But adopting standards and collaborating across the industry requires more than standards alone, it requires a cultural change in the industry which will hopefully start now.”

Track and trace has been seen as the holy grail of container shipping, allowing cargo owners to know the position and condition of their containers in real time. Previous attempts to launch box-tracking services have been limited, as they required all the links in the chain to be using the same system, and hence failed when, for example, a container was carried by a partner carrier’s ship.

By providing a neutral set of standards, the DCSA hopes that services can be built that can interact with each other and thereby enhance visibility along the supply chain