Entre Le Havre et Rotterdam
The CMA CGM AMERIGO VESPUCCI in the port of Rotterdam

MSC has joined ocean carrier rival CMA CGM on the board of French start-up container monitoring company Traxens after investing in the development of the technology firm.

Traxens was founded in 2012 by ex-Amesys Consulting IT executive Michel Fallah. CMA CGM invested in February 2015 “in order to finance new research and development programmes”.

The French carrier said that, aided by the Traxens technology, it would introduce “Big Data” into the transport industry, and claimed it would offer clients “unique follow-up solutions and real-time data from all over the world”.

On its launch last September, the 18,000 teu flagship CMA CGM Bougainville was equipped with antennas enabling containers fitted with the Traxens technology to communicate data to satellites orbiting the earth, even if the boxes were stowed deep in the hold of the ship.

MSC president and chief executive Diego Aponte said: “We believe shipping lines should naturally compete on service, but should co-operate in the area of technology and innovation.

“We see container monitoring as an important innovation, providing our customers with high-quality service, while also being able to monitor our outputs accurately.”

The two carriers and Traxens claim the technology is “set to become an industry standard”, and are planning to announce its deployment across their fleets this year.

Meanwhile, Maersk Line this year completed a five-year remote container management project, which works on similar technological principles.

A huge range of data from each container can be gathered and transmitted to the host data centre, including location, temperature, humidity level, vibration, impacts, attempted burglary and customs clearance status.

There is also considerable added value for both carrier and shipper in the transport of refrigerated and perishable cargo, as the technology allows temperature adjustment of reefer containers by remote control.

The benefits of container tracking devices haves been discussed for years in the industry, but with the exception of refrigerated, high-value and sensitive cargo, take-up has been thwarted by the low freight rate commoditisation of the global container market.

The question from shipping lines was always: who will pay for the devices and data gathering infrastructure?

Now, with both the world’s second- and third-largest container carriers taking a financial stake in its development and use, container tracking and monitoring, particularly while aboard vessels, is looking somewhat closer.

While the development will ultimately mean both 2M partners, Maersk and MSC, can offer shippers the service, what can CMA CGM customers expect if their containers are shipped on alliance partner vessel that isn’t equipped with transmitting and receiving infrastructure.

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