Hundreds of shippers, forwarders, terminals and other organisations are moving towards digitalisation with access to details of around 5 million containers through BoxTech, the database of container technical details provided by the Bureau International des Containers (BIC).
Since its launch in July 2016, the BIC's non-profit BoxTech Technical Characteristics Database has been supporting shippers, carriers, leasing companies and container owners by providing a simple, single source of container details. Most recently, leading container leasing companies Florens and Blue Sky Intermodal, Taipei-based carrier TS Lines and Korean carriers Pan Ocean and CK Line uploaded their fleet details. Combined with the information already added by many other global ocean carriers and container leasing companies, the BoxTech database now holds the details for 5 million shipping containers, approximately 20% of the global fleet. Continuously expanding, the database has also now reached over 1000 total users, including 800 major shippers, forwarders and terminals.
"BoxTech was initially intended primarily as a platform to provide tare weight information to support organisations' compliance with new SOLAS* rules around VGM (verified gross mass) declarations," says Douglas Owen, Secretary General of the BIC, explaining that the database is specially designed to support carriers, shippers, forwarders and other stakeholders with reducing manual tasks and enable better integration with other digital systems.
"However, BoxTech's 1000+ users are now also utilising the database for a wide variety of purposes, such as verifying container size and type or maximum gross weight," he continues. "New features are on the way, so leasing companies and carriers will soon also be able to upload 'alert lists' of various types."
This forthcoming status alert list functionality is just one way that BoxTech is constantly evolving to best meet the needs of the shipping industry. The BoxTech Alerts system will enable container owners to create alert lists that quickly flag specific units in case of bankruptcies and other recovery situations, such as lost or stolen units, or to simply inform users whenever a special status exists for a given unit. Container sale and scrap lists will allow carriers and lessors to indicate containers that have permanently left their fleets, and help prevent improperly-marked containers from continuing to circulate with their markings. This will improve safety, reduce potential risk and liability, and encourage the proper neutralisation of containers when sold.
Signing up to BoxTech is quick, simple and user-friendly. The initial file of container fleet technical details is uploaded easily using a CSV template. Subsequent data uploads can then be automated via APIs, saving time and removing the need for a manual process while ensuring the database is always up to date.
An automated API can also be put in place for conducting database queries, eliminating manual tasks completely for shippers and other parties needing tare weight, size and type or other container characteristics. Accessing data in BoxTech is also extremely simple for those using the website. Users simply sign-up online and query the database by typing in a container number.
"The Global Shippers' Forum welcomes steps taken by BIC to establish a comprehensive global data base for containers and encourages container carriers to support this much-needed initiative by providing information about their pool of containers on the data base", says Chris Welsh, Secretary General of the Global Shippers Forum.
Chris Welsh continues, "Shippers want online information about the details of the container, including the tare weight of the container to make accurate VGM declarations, but also details regarding the container's dimensions and suitability for the cargo to be carried. The data base will enhance maritime safety, improve efficiency and reduce costs for both carriers and shippers by speeding up processes and reducing liability, and cargo claims".
"With over 25 million containers frequently interchanging between operators and strong demand to move our industry into the era of digitalisation, a central, neutral, non-profit, data repository is essential," explains Douglas Owen, Secretary General of the BIC. "Many key players within the industry have foreseen the future benefits and potential for BoxTech and we are thankful that several major container owners and operators, such as CMA-CGM, SeaCo, and Touax, provided leadership as early supporters. With the fleets of over 100 container owners and operators now on the platform, BoxTech has reached 20 per cent of all containers, and interest continues to grow throughout the supply chain."
Douglas Owen concludes "The closer BoxTech gets to having the entire global container fleet in the database, the more beneficial it will become for shippers, terminals, and others throughout the supply chain."
The BIC supports the international container industry with multiple registration databases and operates the BoxTech Technical Characteristics Database for the industry on a non-profit and non-commercial basis.
*SOLAS - International Maritime Organization "Safety of Life at Sea" Convention.