Understanding different alert types in container tracking

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understanding container tracking alerts

In this article, readers will explore the different types of container tracking alerts available in the market. It will provide an in-depth analysis of each alert type, including container departure/arrival/loading/unloading, transshipment/stopover modifications, and schedule deviations.

The evolution of container tracking systems

Once considered a simple tracing tool, container tracking software has undergone a remarkable metamorphosis over time. In 2024, it has become a game-changer for efficient shipment management.

  • At the beginning: a basic tracing tool

Initially, major shipping lines like Maersk, MSC, CMA-CGM … incorporated a shipment tracking tool on their websites, enabling concerned parties to stay informed about the container’s location, but only at key stages of the journey: departure from the port of origin, arrival/departure from transshipment points, arrival at the final port of destination, and release to the consignee.

Furthermore, this information is delivered through manual updates performed on the company’s ERP. The employees rely on the current status of the vessel/goods or any scheduled modifications in the timetable/routing of the vessels designated for transporting the container. Consequently, customers can seldom anticipate the changes.

Ultimately, users had to regularly track individual containers to identify any changes, by typing the container number, the booking number, or the bill of lading number. For major importers or freight forwarders managing dozens or hundreds of shipping containers across various origins and destinations, this process proved highly time-consuming and could swiftly become overwhelming.

  • Now, an invaluable asset for shipment managers

Container tracking systems have evolved into indispensable tools for all stakeholders in the maritime industry, providing enhanced ocean freight visibility. This, in turn, allows them to streamline logistics across the entire supply chain, improve operational efficiency, boost productivity, minimize risks, and ultimately achieve cost savings. Port operators, Beneficial Cargo Owners (BCOs), and Freight Forwarders (FFWs) now heavily rely on container tracking solutions, eliminating the need for manual and individual container checks.

Modern tracking software harness the combined power of container tracking technology, including Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Machine Learning (ML), GPS, as well as Cloud computing and Big data analytics. For communication, they use 4G and 5G Internet connections, satellites, and radio for shorter range wireless container tracking.

Among the tracking systems’ advanced features is the capability to set up alerts for key events. These tools ensure real-time updates, based on continuous data transmission from vessel AIS (automatic identification system), satellite communication, sensors placed on containers, and information provided by shipping lines and port operators at each milestone.

Beyond shipping line websites, ocean container tracking is now readily available on dedicated mobile apps, accessible from all connected devices. Specialized third-party providers offer software solutions with diverse functionalities.

main container tracking alerts

What are the main container tracking alert types?

Modern ocean container tracking systems go far beyond the location and estimated arrival/departure times offered by older, basic tools. They now capture a wide range of parameters for each container, providing a comprehensive view of the shipment journey.

Container tracking alerts can be categorized into several types based on the specific information they convey:

Location and movement

  • Arrival/departure alerts/loading/unloading: notify when a container reaches or leaves a specific location (e.g., port, terminal, yard) or is loaded/unloaded on board/from the vessel.

 

While container tracking solutions have undergone significant feature development, usage data reveals that users primarily seek information on container location and status. For example, once the container is discharged, the platform automatically notifies the importer’s logistics team, allowing them to prepare a truck for pick-up and inform the warehouse team to anticipate the incoming goods.

 

  • Route deviation alerts if any unexpected deviations from the planned route occur.
  • Dwelling time alerts: signal when a container stays at a location longer than expected.

Status and condition

  • Gate-in/gate-out alerts: notify when a container enters or exits a terminal or facility.
  • Customs clearance alerts: inform about the status of customs clearance procedures. Any delay could indicate: documentation issues, late settlement of duties and taxes, inspections for suspicious goods, and other unforeseen circumstances.
  • Reefer container temperature alerts: monitor and alert for deviations from the desired temperature range for perishable goods.
  • Empty/full container alerts: indicate whether a container is currently loaded or empty.
  • Tamper alerts: detect unauthorized access or potential security breaches.

Exceptions and issues

  • Delay alerts: inform about unexpected delays in the expected arrival or departure times.
  • Damage alerts: signal potential damage to the container or its contents.
  • Equipment malfunction alerts: notify about issues with the asset’s tracking device or other equipment.
container tracking alerts for delays

How to take benefit from container tracking alerts?

By receiving timely and relevant alerts, customers can make informed decisions that improve overall supply chain efficiency.

  • For example, when notified of a delay from the initial vessel ETA, suppliers, manufacturers, and retailers can proactively adjust their production plans or selling activities. Port operators can reorganize berthing plans and allocate crews and equipment accordingly. Meanwhile, the forwarder or cargo owner can postpone booking inland haulage from the port terminal to the final destination.
  • Similarly, an earlier-than-expected arrival at a port requires coordination between the shipping company and port operators to avoid unnecessary waiting time before berthing, incurring additional costs and inefficient resource use (especially energy to maintain minimum power supply on board, etc.).

 

These proactive initiatives enable them to avoid unnecessary demurrage charges and mitigate potential risks for containerized goods.

Setting up customized alert rules for container tracking involves defining specific conditions that trigger notifications when met. Here are some examples of alert rules:

 

  • Alert when a container is delayed by more than 24 hours from its ETA at any point in its journey.
  • Alert when the temperature inside a refrigerated container exceeds the specified threshold for a certain period.
  • Alert when a container enters or leaves a predefined geographical area (geofence alerts), or enters a specific custom zone and remains there for longer than expected.

 

The process of defining alerts generally includes 4 steps:

 

  • Specify the data point to be monitored.
  • Set a comparison operator, such as “equal to,” “greater than,” “less than,” “between,” etc.
  • Define a threshold value, i.e. the specific value that triggers the alert when met, based on pre-defined milestones or timeframes..

–> Choose the recipient of the alert: email address, SMS, or a specific team member within the organization.

 

Depending on the container tracking systems, some specific parameters may be added:

  • Classify alerts based on urgency (critical, warning, informational) to prioritize responses.
  • Set delays between repeated notifications for the same issue to avoid overwhelming recipients.
  • Test and refine your rules to minimize false alarms (false positives) that can trigger unnecessary actions.

 

By implementing appropriate alert rules, users can gain timely insights into potential issues impacting individual shipments, allowing them to take proactive steps to ensure timely delivery and smooth logistics operations.

Example to illustrate the interest of having container tracking alerts

Scenario: A company based in the United States imports perishable goods from Europe. The shipment is crucial for their upcoming sales event and needs to maintain a specific temperature range throughout the international transportation.

With container tracking alerts:

  • The company sets up an alert to notify them if the container deviates from its planned route or experiences a delay exceeding a specific threshold, instead of relying solely on the initial ETA, which might not be accurate.
  • Its teams also receive an alert if the temperature inside the container exceeds the safe range for a certain amount of time.
  • They can proactively contact the shipping company to inquire about the delay and potentially arrange for alternative transportation if necessary, minimizing potential losses.
  • They can take immediate action to mitigate the temperature issue by contacting the shipping company or rerouting the container to a facility with appropriate temperature control capabilities, potentially saving the entire shipment.

 

This example highlights several benefits of having container tracking alerts:

  • Early awareness of potential issues for proactive problem-solving and damage control.
  • Improved decision-making and actions based on real-time information.
  • Reduced risk of damage to cargo and financial losses.
  • Enhanced supply chain visibility and efficiency.

Leveraging Safecube for optimal shipment management

Safecube

A clear and dynamic dashboard centralizes all ocean freight information, from the supplier’s warehouse to the final destination. That’s the promise of Safecube, the cutting-edge container tracking tool developed by Sinay, a leader in data-driven solutions for maritime and offshore operations.

This digital platform intelligently consolidates information from shipping lines, ports, vessels, and client systems. At a glance, users gain a comprehensive overview of all monitored shipments. A simple interactive map provides crucial information on each selected container, either based on its unique ID or the bill of lading number. This enables instant display of the final customer’s name and reference, the shipment’s current status and location, its tracking history, and the vessel it’s aboard.

Moreover, users can set up automatic alert rules to receive notifications via email or push notification for any critical status changes and revised arrival estimates (ETA). Safecube is more than just a tracking tool. This intuitive platform enables analysis of various insights extracted from tracking data and logs alerts, including transit times, schedule deviations, route changes, and issue resolution time. These results can be benchmarked with metrics from other maritime industry actors. This study allows for an assessment of the ocean carriers’ performance, highlighting key trends and potential areas for improvement. This, in turn, can lead to the continuous optimization of supply chains.

Safecube is a complete and reliable solution for companies across the entire maritime sector. It facilitates the real-time location of goods, seamless management of multimodal shipments, and informed decision-making based on reliable, centralized data. Integrating Safecube with the client’s system through Sinay’s all-in-one API enhances the user experience, ensuring smoother and more transparent management of logistics operations.

 

Container tracking

Sinay also launches a single platform to observe, analyze, and report container events.

A perfect way to simplify container tracking in one interface!

APIs

You can also receive alerts via API. It’s in the form of webhooks that you can integrate into your solutions. Do not hesitate to go on the Developer Platform to discover these solutions. 

FAQ about Container Alerts

Container tracking alerts encompass various categories including location and movement alerts (e.g., arrival/departure, route deviations), status and condition alerts (e.g., gate-in/gate-out, customs clearance), and exceptions and issues alerts (e.g., delays, damage, equipment malfunction).

Container tracking alerts empower stakeholders to make informed decisions and streamline supply chain operations. By receiving real-time updates, organizations can proactively adjust plans, optimize resource allocation, and mitigate risks, ultimately enhancing efficiency and reducing costs.

Setting up customized alert rules involves defining specific conditions, such as delays or temperature deviations, that trigger notifications. This process typically includes specifying the data point, setting comparison operators, defining threshold values, and choosing recipients for alerts.

Safecube, developed by Sinay, offers a dynamic dashboard consolidating ocean freight information. Users can gain insights into shipment status, location, and tracking history, and set up automatic alerts for critical status changes. Integrating with client systems through Sinay’s API ensures seamless logistics management and informed decision-making.

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