Late last year, a Rotterdam-based startup called TEUbooker launched a software platform designed to tackle a gap in logistics-related technology – more efficient transport of containers between seaport and inland terminal. It’s a system designed to help both carriers and shippers.
“What we are trying to do is bridge two sides of communication, from the booker to the operator into one platform,” said Frans Swarttouw, TEUbooker’s founder and managing director.
The terminals will benefit as well, Swarttouw believes. “Seaports will get the containers in larger volumes and not one-by-one with trucks,” he said.
This kind of system, Swarttouw said, will particularly resonate with smaller shippers. It gives them a real-time network that has been beyond their means and comprehension before.
“If you look at larger shippers and forwarders, they know this game really well,” he said. “If you look at all the smaller shippers and forwarders, they make irrational decisions on how to bring a container to the seaport. We connect the dots.”
Transport between ocean and inland terminal is becoming increasingly more complicated as container vessels grow in size, requiring the deployment of far more intermodal carriers.
More and more terminals are focused on intermodal traffic as well, said Eva Salvesberg, the senior vice president of the logistics division for the German software company INFORM, which makes optimization software for terminals.
Salvesberg cited her own company’s “Rail Scheduler” software, which is being used in the GCT Deltaport Intermodal Yard reconfiguration project in the Port of Vancouver. The software optimizes the handover of containers between yard and rail, resulting in a decreased number of re-stacking moves at the yard.
One aim of TEUbooker is to boost the use of under-utilized rail and barge, thus reducing truck traffic. Another is to bring down the transport of empty containers. Better use of data, data sharing and more transparent data helps with both.
“You can build the smartest system in the world, but if you can’t communicate with other parties, then you still have a problem,” Swarttouw concluded.
To test the technology, the company began moving containers via underutilized barge between terminals in Rotterdam for transshipment. Early next year, it will initiate a system designed to book and track containers moving from seaports to the European hinterland and vice-versa.
That, the company hopes, can promote the use of barges, which can suffer from a perception of being too slow and unreliable, but can be, in fact, cheaper and just as dependable.
“We are using data which is already available,” Swarttouw explained. “If you [as a shipper] are putting a container on the barge, will it arrive in time? We’re trying to make it all visible. Demonstrate reliability. So, people can say, ‘we can also choose this.’”