If you want to solve your last mile problems, start with the first miles

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Shipments are taking longer than expected to arrive at their destinations. There are many reasons supply chains are strained and most of them can’t be solved overnight. So how do we manage cargo shipping and delivery when standard timelines no longer apply? We focus on starts and finishes: the first mile and the last mile.

A lot has been said about the last mile – the final leg of the supply chain where the goods cross the finish line at their destination and purchase order receipts are happily accepted and checked. The last mile has been the focus of supply chain management even before our current challenges set in. Now though, we’re managing COVID-19 processes, navigating booming e-commerce sales, and sorting through a shipping container shortage. Mix in climate change, a record breaking storm season, and emission control regulations and you have our current state of affairs – complicated, wrought with delays, and short on workers.

Let’s talk about the first mile: where the shipping journey begins

The first mile is the start of the race. It sets the tone for everything that comes after it. The first mile helps establish realistic delivery timelines and is the point where routes, ship travel speeds, and needed processes will be defined. Maritime cargo delivery from point of origin to port destination is a vital component of the supply chain and it’s one that is trackable and has options that can be used to manage arrival times.

The Port of Long Beach has received a lot of press about extended wait times outside of the port. Last week Flexport CEO Ryan Petersen took a boat tour to survey the challenges and the results were startling. Wait times are increasing and there isn’t a quick fix in sight. Satellite images show vessels waiting in anchorage for long periods of time.

What’s interesting is that until recently, there were no vessels waiting in anchorage because throughput in a port is a known factor that can be managed. Vessels waiting in anchorage incur costs for the charter by paying the crew as well as not being able to complete additional trips because they have to wait to be unloaded. Costs also increase for the cargo owners, as their goods are delayed. Automatic Identification System (AIS) vessel tracking data is a first mile solution that can help remedy wait times, plan port services, and improve transparency with customers and cargo owners.

See how accurate, reliable, and easy data can be

Download our free data sample and see how AIS data can help identify wait times, set more accurate customer expectations, and plan more efficient maritime transportation deliveries. Maritime is often the first mile of the supply chain delivery process, data can make it the most efficient mile.

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How vessel tracking data is a first mile solution

Using vessel tracking data, like satellite and terrestrial AIS data to plan routes, optimize fuel usage, and keep your cargo owners informed about potential delays are only a few of the components that can be managed with data. Moreover, data can be used to identify patterns and anomalies, estimate current wait times based on real-time data, and choose alternate ports for time sensitive deliveries that simply can’t wait.

Using the backup at the Port of Long Beach as an example, a first mile decision based on data could identify the Port of Oakland as a viable alternative for time sensitive cargo deliveries. Then the middle mile could be rail or trucking travel before being handed off to the last mile deliverer. Many vessel operators are looking for alternate ports with no wait times to get their cargo delivered and help reduce the massive backup of cargo ships on the West Coast. Data is a viable and cost effective first mile solution for planning these types of endeavors.

Vessel optimization and external supply chain risks

Optimizing vessel performance and managing external supply chain risks, like supply and demand changes, political upheaval, and fluctuating economies, can all benefit from vessel tracking data. Using AIS data sources to visualize supply and demand, track world trade, and literally see which port a commodity is being offloaded helps vessel owners and operators make strategic decisions about port selection. Oceanbolt, a leading dry bulk intelligence platform, uses AIS solution, Enhanced Satellite AIS, to help them track world trade with a level of accuracy their customers can depend on to make operational decisions. Oceanbolt achieved a 4% uplift in global port call detection using Enhanced Satellite AIS. Oceanbolt can pass these improved analytics on to their customers in the form of more accurate geospatial processing algorithms.

Visualizing situational awareness

Supply chains, like markets, continue to evolve. The first mile of the supply chain is just as strategically important and the last mile. The first mile is where you set expectations with cargo owners and optimize vessel performance to maximize revenue. The beginning of the supply chain journey is where data can help you see vessel traffic, track wait times, select the best port option, and schedule port services. Efficient planning and better outcomes are attainable when you use quality data you can trust – a first mile solution.

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