Ocean Network Express (ONE) said it is partnering with Sony Network Communications Europe to equip its global fleet of dry containers with sensors. ONE Line said the move would give it “greater insights about its container fleet” and “the data will enable better visibility of the containers, faster and proactive decision making and more, allowing more efficient container movement.”  ONE Line and Sony did not indicate how long the rollout of its sensor-equipped containers would take.
ONE’s announcement follows on the heels of Hapag-Lloyd’s decision in April 2022 to install real-time tracking devices on its three million twenty-foot equivalent (TEU) fleet. “Going forward, we will be able to provide all our customers with real-time track and trace data, giving them full visibility of any container movement worldwide. We will be able to detect delays earlier, inform impacted customers automatically and initiate counteractions at an early stage. We firmly believe that our real-time tracking approach will not only be beneficial for our customers but be a game changer for the entire container shipping industry”, says Maximilian Rothkopf, COO of Hapag-Lloyd.
ONE Line and Sony did not indicate how long the rollout of its sensor-equipped containers would take.
“Smart containers” that collect real-time data have generally been used with high-value cargo. Nexxiot AG, one of the vendors selected to outfit sensors to Hapag-Lloyd’s containers, was tapped by SAP and Japanese data solutions company NTT to improve insurance management in the supply chain . The trackers automatically trigger and execute insurance policies if goods are not transported under certain pre-defined conditions (e.g. temperature, humidity, shock). However, a maturing hardware segment, longer battery life, and 5G network availability has made deploying tracking technology for general-purpose containers possible.
Hurdles to Adoption
There are still significant hurdles to widespread adoption, not the least being hardware and data standards. As Erik Lund, head of Sony Network Communications’ tracking division stated, “None of the carriers will want to be reliant on a single source of hardware.” For its part, the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) wants to take the lead on an effort that would harmonize container shipping data and the adoption of technology to trace cargo through different phases of delivery . The “Maritime Transportation Data Initiative” (MTDI),  is one of several parallel public and private sector attempts to address a lack of data sharing, standardization, and quality between parties responsible for coordinating container moves.
While a significant first step, Hapag-Lloyd and ONE’s investment in tracking technology does not represent the holy grail of end-to-end supply chain visibility.