Nine ocean carriers to launch Web-based exchange

Nine ocean carriers are teaming with a California tech start-up to launch an online venture to make the process of shipping containers across the ocean easier and cheaper.

The new venture, tentatively named the Global Transportation Network (GTN), will launch early next year. Details of the arrangement haven't been released.

"This will fundamentally change the process of getting goods around the world," the carriers said in a statement. "Our common objective is to leverage this Internet platform and drive superior customer service and lower transactions costs for both customers and providers. What sets this partnership apart is the powerful combination of transportation and technology expertise that puts the customers' needs first."

The shipping companies have signed on with Tradiant, an Alameda, Calif.-based technology start-up that makes software to handle cargo booking, tracking and tracing.

According to the statement, the partnership will simplify and reduce work for the carriers' customers -- the companies shipping the goods. By moving business processes to the Web, the venture will help companies get rid of manual processes and mounds of paperwork. Using GTN, customers will be able to book freight, prepare documentation, track shipments and check schedules.

Carriers involved in the partnership are: APL, Oakland, Calif.; London-based CP Ships, the container shipping business of Canadian Pacific Ltd., Hanjin Shipping Co., Korea; K Linen, Japan; Mitsui OSK Lines, Japan; Senator Lines, Germany; Yang Ming Line, Taiwan; and Zim Israel Navigation Co., Israel.

The new venture by the shipping companies is part of a trend set by other transportation sectors, such as trucking and railroads, that have created their own Web-based exchanges rather than wait for third-party logistics providers.

In May, for example, four railroads invested in Arzoon, a privately held company that developed Internet technology to provide one-stop, global transportation management services across all modes of transportation (see story). The railroads wanted a Web-based exchange for rail customers to procure, execute and track freight.

Kevin Higgins, director of global logistics at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in Bentonville, Ark., said the exchange will help his company "greatly improve operational efficiencies for us and our carriers."

But transportation analyst Donald Broughton at A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc. in St. Louis, said that although the Web may help speed up internal business processes, it does nothing to move freight faster.

"The faster goods are moving, the better," he said. "The slower the goods move the less value you add to a business. These are ocean carriers -- the railroads of the ocean. The value added by Web-enabling [business processes] is not as significant as [finding ways] to move goods faster."

Higgins agreed that the GTN won't necessarily move his goods faster, but he added that's not what he views as the value of the exchange. "It's about decision-making on the front end," he said.

This story, "Nine ocean carriers to launch Web-based exchange " was originally published by Computerworld.

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