During the last decade, the three ocean shipping portals, INTTRA, CargoSmart and GT Nexus have all taken slightly different paths in the process of bringing their constituents greater online services. The novelty of the ocean shipping portal is now over as the system has come of age in the world of e-commerce.

George Lauriat, AJOT

Back at the beginning of the decade the ocean carriers realized that the Internet offered an unprecedented opportunity to connect to shippers, freight forwarders, 3PLs and everybody else involved in the supply chain. In the beginning, at least superficially, GT Nexus, CargoSmart and INTTRA appeared to be similar offering shippers and other related parties access to multiple carriers through a single portal with track and trace documentation and other typical ocean carrier 'back room' functions. But as time has passed, each of the three portals has developed their own distinct flavor that has greatly expanded the breadth and type of online services offered by the three ocean shipping portals.

INTTRA has in recent years, worked on extending functionality available to commercial entities to enterprises of all sizes. The guts of the INTTRA platform, is their three operational channels; INTTRA-Link (system-to-system connection via EDI or XML), INTTRA-Act (web-based application), or INTTRA-Desktop (off-line PC application). According to Mr. Yuji Furusawa, INTTRA's Director, Product Management, 'As logistics management becomes more critical to businesses of all sizes INTTRA continues to add advanced features that, until now, had only been available to large enterprises. INTTRA Desktop File Master is a natural and robust extension of INTTRA's Desktop channel. It enables businesses to quickly integrate with their ocean carriers using INTTRA's industry-standard multi-carrier SI format, all without incurring the cost of updating their systems or investing in more costly EDI integration with each carrier.' Another aspect of the improvement in the system is the 'UCA Link'. The UCA Link (Universal Carrier Access), INTTRA enables EDI'capable shippers and forwarders to reach all carriers with one process. Shippers or forwarders transmit shipping instructions to any carrier or NVOCC via a single EDIFACT or XML connection. All carriers - INTTRA members as well as carriers not connected to the INTTRA network - receive shipping instructions in a common, industry-standard format. Another new INTTRA feature is OceanShedules. According to Harry Sangree, Managing Director, of OceanSchedules (a division of INTTRA) 'we provide a multi-carrier interactive e-commerce platform for ocean shipping scheduling.' He explained that the platform is open to all shippers and forwarders and equally offers schedule hosting to all carriers. The idea is that with the web-based technology, OceanSchedules.com will enable shippers to view comprehensive body of carrier schedules with an interactive interface.

CargoSmart, the San Jose California based ocean shipping portal evolved from the OOCL (Orient Overseas Container Line) back room system into a stand alone company that is carving out it's own niche of online services. Joe O'Brien, an industry veteran, CargoSmart's Director of Business Development, said in an interview with the AJOT, that three portals have indeed moved in independent directions. 'What we've done,' O'Brien said 'is to continue to improve our products with advanced shipment visibility for ocean shippers, high quality data and a reliable system, with really flexible features.' O'Brien added that 'in March, we launched a number of new products Express Link ' Express Link is a secure link that customers can include on their internal Web sites or Web sites for their trading partners.' He explained that Express Link takes users directly to pre-filled out forms for Cargo Tracking, Sailing Schedule, Vessel Tracking, and North America Rail Tracing, and saves customers time from signing in and entering repetitive information in CargoSmart. Last month, the company launched a redesigned ho