As the shipping industry begins using the new opportunities that technology presents, collecting data is key for smarter decision-making and increasing efficiency in operations. The collection, analysis and smart usage of big data have the ability to drive transparency across the industry and provide new ways of monetization for various service providers such as NVOCCs, Traders and Carriers amongst others.

What is big data?

xChange focuses on big data in shipping

Big data is data sets that are so big and complex that traditional data-processing application software is inadequate to deal with them. Big data challenges include capturing data, data storage, data analysis, search, sharing, transfer, visualization, querying, updating, information privacy and data source. The concept of “Big data” gained momentum in the early 2000s when industry analyst Doug Laney defined big data as the three Vs:

Volume: Organizations collect data from a variety of sources, including business transactions, social media and information from sensor or machine-to-machine data.

Velocity: Data streams at an unprecedented speed and must be dealt with in a timely manner. RFID tags, sensors and smart metering are driving the need to deal with torrents of data in near-real time.

Variety: Data comes in all types of formats – from structured, numeric data in traditional databases to unstructured text documents, email, video, audio, stock ticker data and financial transactions.

Nowadays, the three Vs have been further expanded to more complementary aspects of big data:

Machine learning: big data often don’t ask why and simply detects patterns

Digital footprint: big data is often a cost-free byproduct of digital interaction

How does big data apply to shipping?

five ways big data is changing shipping

For ocean freight shipping, it’s more than just ‚look-back information‘ or say how many TEUs you shipped in May from Shanghai to Hamburg. The shipping industry generates roughly 100-120 million data points every day, from ports, couriers, social media feeds, vessel movements – the potential is huge!

What big data can do is help you identify quicker routes, better ports to deliver at, more efficient couriers. This means that a good use of big data could lead to an increase in revenue and performance of your company.


How big data is changing the shipping industry 

Maintenance prediction

Cargo ships spend the majority of the year at sea and this means that they take a beating on a daily basis. Despite being huge industrial machines, they still require considerable maintenance. Often this kind of maintenance comes at inconvenient times though and takes place when something is already broken. Through sensors on the ship and predictive analytics, it is possible to identify which areas need maintenance to avoid longer downtime and this can be undertaken at the optimum moment, preventing delays and increasing efficiency.

Route and supply-chain optimization

Advanced analytics and optimization techniques can be applied on the data related to the routes followed by the ships in order to derive an optimal strategy related to the order of the different destinations across different routes to be followed.

Cargo Tracking

There are clear advantages in being able to track exactly where a piece of cargo is at any one time, simply for security and delivery estimates, but there are other elements to this that can have a significant impact on shipping specifically. Each year there are an estimated 1,679 shipping containers lost due to a number of different factors. By placing sensors within shipping containers, the reasons for these losses can be established and the problems can then be mitigated in the future.

Market Transparency

Understand the world fleet, ship and ship ownership information, as well as new markets. Gain a deep understanding of pick-up charges and credits and increase knowledge on equipment at different port locations ( compare Container Availability Index (CAI) from Container xChange using more than 100 000 data-points every month).

Environmental Perspective

Big data has not only the potential to save USD or increase efficiency – the right use of big data could also benefit mother earth. According to the BCG Shipping Benchmark you could not only safe at least $200/unit if you reduce the amount of empty boxes using Container xChange – you could safe environmental costs of 1,9 kg CO2-emission per container shipped from China to Europe.

Container ships and the future of shipping with big data

How do you benefit from big data in shipping?

There is not one way or one strategy to apply and every company is different. What we learned at xChange though is that collaboration is one important aspect to increase efficiency and revenue potentials.

xChange is a neutral online network for one-way container moves/SOC container, making it simple and efficient to find/ offer, negotiate and use/supply containers using smart data on a one-way basis. Our network now has more than 200 member companies and facilitates container one-ways globally across more than 2,500 locations. Trust is an integral part of xChange and ensured through a variety of measures such as references, a standard contractual framework, peer-2-peer reviews and a dedicated insurance solution.

We do offer API/ EDI integrations on xChange to let you use xChange from the tools or system you use at your company. This enables us to send you detailed track & trace reports for all your containers as well as automated release references, container event notifications and more accurate results & proposals on xChange.