Why Shipping Software Is Crucial in Modern Maritime Industry

Liner vessels carry more than 60 percent of cargoes transported by sea each year. Transporting these cargoes involves a network of ships, trucks, and trains moving through several transfer points known as intermodal connectors. Any problem or disruption anywhere in the network can result in shipment delays and increased costs – issues that hurt many shipping companies even until now. Eliminating such problems is the reason why more and more liner ship operators invest in liner shipping software.

Liner vessels such as Roll-on / Roll-off (RoRo), container ships, and break bulk vessels are capable of moving thousands of truckloads of cargo on a single voyage at full capacity. However, managing cargo transport operations can be complicated and may require hundreds of workers to manually perform routines from packing, to warehousing, inventory, loading, transshipping, and discharging of consignments. Integrated shipping software automates time-consuming and labor-intensive processes involved in tracking and managing cargo transport process resulting in increased efficiency, profitability, and reduced overhead.

Marine software solutions can be purchased off-the-shelf and at affordable price from many software houses in the market. These are easy to install, can be customized to fit different business requirements, and can be easily integrated into existing business platforms. Additionally, modern shipping line software have built-in “switching” feature which ensures that operators and their customer are not forced to use on-size-fits-all system.

One example of maritime software application which can be found is container tracking software. Operators use this software application to provide their clients visibility on the actual progress of the cargo transport process, giving them peace of mind knowing that their shipments are in good hands and are delivered on time. It captures real-time reports on container movements including departure, transshipment, and discharging.

To maximize profitability, shipping companies use voyage calculation software to forecast operational costs and income they will generate from each voyage or port call. Also known as voyage accounting software, this application enables operators to calculate all possible expenses including port costs, cargo costs including voyage and bunker costs. Operators can use this information to identify desirable and undesirable freights, manage their cargo mix, increase or decrease volume when necessary, and choose the most cost-effective deployment and rotation of a vessel to ensure profitability. Additionally, operators can use this application to run multiple calculations simultaneously and compare rates in order to determine options with best commercial value.

Shipping software companies continue to develop solutions in order to provide operators with tools they need to automate critical processes and develop strategies to effectively streamline and simplify their operations, reduce overhead, and improve their services. Operators must evaluate their business carefully and decide on the right type of shipping software solution to use.

Benefits of Using Packaged Shipping Software

It’s hard to imagine a shipping business without an IT department nowadays. As technology becomes more and more advanced, carriers keep up by taking advantage of the latest innovations and best practices in the industry in order to remain competitive. Forward thinking operators have taken advantage of the rapidly changing technology by using advanced shipping software solutions to enhance their competitive advantage. However, when it comes to choosing the right software solution, the shipping industry is divided between in-house and packaged solutions. Shipping companies need to analyze their unique requirements to determine the type of business solution that will bring more advantage to their daily operations.

Global operators seem to have conflicting views with regard to the cost-effectiveness of building in-house IT systems compared with buying ready-made, customizable platforms. Both have their own advantage when it comes to streamlining operations that have direct effect on the cost-efficiency of a shipping business. Understanding the specific differences between these two systems can help operators make more informed decisions in using their resources.

Bespoke System

Many operators prefer hiring programmers and software developers, and build customized software to fit their specific business requirements. Doing this gives them full control of software development. However, bespoke or in-house systems will require time until they are working live, which will delay the positive impact of automation sometimes up to 3-4 years as seen for bigger implementations. It will also consume resources on the carrier side not only from the IT but also from the involved departments.

In addition, the fact that technology evolves rapidly, software solutions that have been custom-tailored to support a specific function may date quickly and not work on newer platforms, necessitating a painful upgrade that may include an expensive migration process. For the same reason, in-house systems require skilled IT staff which results in increased operational expenses – something that does not sound interesting in a slumping economy.

Packaged System

Generally, ready-made shipping software are a lot cheaper and easier to implement when compared with in-house systems. In fact, buying off-the-shelf solution can be 10 to 50 times cheaper than developing a bespoke system. In addition, modern packaged software incorporates a switching capability, which allows the user to customize each application to handle specific requirements without any expensive re-programming. Once customized, packaged software have the capability to automate time-consuming and resource-intrusive business processes.

Modern packages solutions are flexible enough to work for almost any carrier, regardless of size, specialization, or local requirements. This capability makes it even more appealing for vessel operators to buy off-the-shelf instead of commissioning expensive in-house solutions.

Packaged software solutions are widely available in the software market and can be purchased at very reasonable prices. In addition, many software companies offer excellent guarantee periods for their products during which any software issues are fixed without extra cost.

Change can be Painful

Despite the impressive features of packaged shipping software solutions, many carriers are still stuck with bespoke systems because of perceived difficulties that accompany a change in IT infrastructure. In most cases, these difficulties have something to do with legacy systems which often control key areas of a shipping business. Change in this case must be managed properly using correct methodologies avoid common problems that usually come with the process of implementing a new business system.

Shipping goods involves too many complicated processes that require focus and expertise in all aspects. To be more productive, operators must focus on their core business which is operating ships. They should not divert large amounts of resources to other activities outside their expertise to avoid uncontrolled expenses that can hurt their business in the long run.

Should Liners Invest in Shipping Software Solutions?

Greater efficiency is the top priority of most shipping companies nowadays. With skyrocketing fuel prices and growing market competition, vessel operators are looking for better ways to cut operational expenses while keeping their revenues up. To make this possible, the shipping industry is constantly moving toward greater technological integration to automate various aspects of a shipping process. For this reason, marine software companies have developed various types of shipping software solutions for port and on-ship activities.

Every year, millions of tons of cargoes are being moved by shipping lines on various vessels including RoRo, container, and multipurpose vessels. Moving these goods involves many parties and complex processes. To accommodate the increasing complexities involved in port and vessel operations, hipping software companies have developed maritime software solutions which have greatly increased efficiencies.

For instance, modern merchant vessels use container tracking software to track actual locations of containers and provide their clients real-time view of the actual progress of a container transport process. Automated updates of container and cargo events can be sent to the relevant parties to provide full visibility to them.

Aside from container tracking software, modern shipping lines are also equipped with software applications that help them maximize revenue from each voyage or port call. Voyage calculation software also known as voyage accounting software allows vessel operators to forecast expenses, and revenue they can generate from each shipment and port call. Using this software, operators can make quick calculations of direct cargo related expenses and indirect expenses like fuel expenses, harbor dues, canal fees, and other costs involved in the process. This enables them to manage their cargo mix and simulate the impact contributions of different cargo mixes, port rotations and vessel speeds. Operators can also make simultaneous calculations of costs using different ships and routes and choose transactions they deem to provide the best commercial value.

Cargo safety is always a top priority when transporting containers. To ensure that this is achieved in every trip, operators need to ensure that their container fleet is properly maintained and repaired. With integrated container repair software carriers have full visibility of container damages. Container repair software allows them to quickly authorize and validate repairs, check warranties, identify improper repairs and locations where the equipment is not properly handled. This will ensure that ‘black sheeps’ amongst repair shops.

Integrated shipping software allows shipping companies to increase the efficiency of their operations both on the shore and off. They are available in platforms which can be integrated into a vessel’s existing system without doing any expensive reprogramming. While some marine software solutions can be expensive, operators can easily make back the difference in cost of their investment. However, operators must choose shipping software companies which provide quality shipping software products and after-sales service so that they can benefit most from their investment.