It has taken some 15 years for 49% of container shipping instructions to be digistised meaning that majority of bookings are still made by traditional means rather than digitally.
But this balance is shifting quickly and INTTRA, a provider of digital processes for the container shipping and logistics, is seeing an annual business volume growth of 16% year-on-year far higher than the 2-4% volume growth being seen by the industry.
“We see a lot of clients coming to INTTRA switching to the first time switching to digital technology from doing things manually as well as we see some customers switching from other means of submitting shipping instructions,” Kuznetsova told Seatrade Maritime News in an interview.
“We’ve started seeing a quite a lot of interest from Asian shippers and Asian carriers side, from the customers, who suddenly realised over the last year what used to be a decoration is now a necessity. The digital ways of performing processes in shipping become a default standard in many ways for doing business for many global companies and smaller companies have started adopting the new approach,” she explained.
An area where the adoption of digitsation has been much faster than for the sector as whole is for the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) requirement for containers being shipped that was introduced by the IMO on 1 July last year. With this new requirement Kuznetsova says over 90% are submitting the information electronically via e-VGM through a variety methods, including INTTRA.
Indeed while regulation has often been seen as hindering digitalization in shipping, and still is in certain parts of the world with requirements for paper documentation, INTTRA is seeing a shift in the thinking of governments. “We start seeing governments playing a very positive role for the industry to adopt digitization and leverage it to provide a better service,” she stated.
The hard times that container shipping has been through in recent years have been well documented with years of hefty losses leading to both bankruptcies and consolidation.
While a lack of profitability does mean a pressure on budgets for investment n systems lines are also seeking more efficient and cost effective ways of doing business.
Kuznetsova said that in the difficult business climate carriers start looking at drastic changes to their business models both to improve business processes and differentiate themselves from their competitors. All these innovations require technology, good access to data and strong IT partners.
“We see many carriers supporting the trend by introducing differences in charges from manual and electronic booking. We see shippers setting policies, and we see BCOs requiring electronic booking as a part of a special deal to get access to information about the track and trace of containers,” she said.
In recent mergers and acquisitions in the sector Kuznetsova noted that the acquiring party often had the stronger hold on IT and as a result the company being acquired starts putting a greater attention digitisation.