How to get accurate vessel ETA when the schedule predictability drops to a historic low?


Container shipping demand is expected to grow in the fourth quarter of 2021, thanks to China’s October Golden Week, and Christmas. And high demand in combination with the already disrupted supply chain from COVID will lead to further delivery delays, spikes in transportation costs, and low schedule predictability.  

“There is no end in sight for this supply chain disruption. We need to learn how to navigate in these challenging times.”, says Sjoerd de Jager, CEO at PortXchange.

For shippers, it’s getting even harder to predict when vessels arrive at the destination ports. As a result, there is an increasing need for enhanced visibility. Shippers want to get advanced notice of the delay, so they can reduce its negative impact, adjust their planning, and communicate changes to their customers. 

To improve visibility into the ocean freight and provide shippers with more reliable estimated times of vessel arrivals (ETA’s), we’ve developed PortXchange Shiptracker. It combines terrestrial and satellite vessel tracking information with Machine Learning model to give access to the most accurate ETA’s. It enables shippers to switch from reactive to proactive planning and remain in control even during a crisis like this.

What’s the difference between reported and calculated vessel ETA?

There are two types of ETAs that AIS vessel-tracking platforms display: reported and calculated. A reported estimated time of arrival is provided by the vessel’s crew. It gives a general estimation of the arrival time and is sufficient for planning non-time-sensitive processes. But when time accuracy is critical, the reported ETA is not good enough. Usually, it’s entered on departure and updated periodically during the voyage, therefore, ETA update frequency is not optimal.

 A calculated ETA is near accurate and real-time information of the vessel’s arrival time to the destination port. It is based on live terrestrial and satellite vessel tracking, historic voyage data, vessel characteristics, and weather data in combination with Machine Learning. Machine Learning models are trained to calculate the ETA on every vessel position and those ETA’s are refreshed automatically. So if there are any delays due to unpredictable factors such as weather, the ETA will be updated. As a result, calculated ETAs are more reliable and accurate than reported ETA.

Why is vessel eta tracking reliability so important?

ETAs trigger planning of all further processes that follow upon vessel arrival. Inaccurate ETAs affect the entire supply chain and make planning more difficult.

In the world of logistics and supply chain management, obtaining an accurate and reliable ETA  has a wide range of benefits:

  • Provide end-customers with more visibility of their transportation operations
  • Accurately measure and improve delivery performance
  • Increase productivity through more efficient transportation management
  • Build a resilient supply chain

With better insights into vessel arrival times, supply chain disruptions will no longer take shippers by surprise, promoting the stability of transport processes and planning reliability.

How do we calculate vessel ETA in Portxchange Shiptracker? 

Combining data from a large network of Terrestrial AIS receivers and Satellite AIS technology, allows Portxchange Shiptracker to offer the most comprehensive coverage of the global shipping fleet.

Although satellite AIS could guarantee global coverage, in high traffic density areas the message transmissions in the same frequency range increase the probability of message collisions. Moreover, when the vessel is in transit in an area not covered by satellites, it is almost impossible to trace it. By combining satellite and terrestrial information, we receive more frequent updates about the vessel’s position. More frequent updates are coupled with our Machine Learning algorithms and result in more accurate calculations of vessel ETA. 

How to access ships ETA data through PortXchange Shiptracker?

PortXchange Shiptracker provides calculated ETA’s easily accessible through a web application or API. It takes just a few minutes to create an account, select the destination port and get the list of all the vessels heading there. The user can also search for a specific vessel, and see its real-time location on a live map along with calculated ETA’s

Getting vessel ETA’s via API is also fast and easy. We have recently introduced the fully online onboarding flow that allows generating the API key in just a few steps. 

After registering on our website, users only need to choose the preferred API credit bundle, provide credit card details, and the AIS API key will be automatically generated. It’s possible to test the API connection for just  €4,95, and then pay-per-use. 

Supply chain disruptions are here to stay, but with PortXchange Shiptracker, shippers can be better prepared for any unforeseen circumstances.

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About the author

Diana Trubnikova Growth Marketer
Diana Trubnikova
Growth Marketer

Diana is a B2B marketing specialist passionate about innovative digital solutions that drive real change in the world. She helps companies discover PortXchange and assess if it’s a good fit for their needs.

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