STRIKE A MATCH by Peter Mackay (HCB)

STRIKE A MATCH by Peter Mackay (HCB)
Peter Mackay is Editor–in–Chief of Hazardous Cargo Bulletin HCB Monthly.


The launch this year of marked an important step change in the way the intermodal industry works. What the platform does is offer a way of getting buyer (the cargo owner) and seller (the tank operator) together in a neutral and anonymous way, opening up greater transparency while at the same time avoiding the need for players on either side to show their hand at the negotiating table.
To those with a traditional mindset, this service replicates the role of the broker, an independent third party who uses market knowledge to offer benefit to both sides – in theory at least.
However, that is Industry 3.0 thinking. The move to a fourth generation model needs a different way of thinking and, as gets a broader audience and usership base, other benefits are becoming clearer.

The premiss of the fourth generation model is that the use of information technology, particularly the Internet of Things (IoT), can easily create immensely greater connectivity between disparate players in a market. For, that means more than just the cargo owner and tank owner – other parties have a role to play in ensuring better employment of tanks and faster availability of the right tanks in the right place: repair depots, cleaning stations, tank surveyors and tank hauliers are all important in keeping the chain working.
As develops, then, these parties are being connected to the system. In addition, the availability of more specific information about the technical needs and capabilities of parties across the chain will allow the system to offer better matches.
“We are now connecting more deeply with chemical companies – and their distributors and forwarders – to define what services we can add for them to increase added value,” comments Léon de Bruin of the Rotterdam-based “We are also expanding the client base into the food and feedstuffs, beverages and gases sectors.”

To accommodate all these ideas, the tech guys at are continuously working hard to ensure that the system can take advantage of the latest advances. Those include the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to get closer to clients. The application of advanced ML will will use supply and demand data from the platform as well as from external resources (tracking data, border control/customs data, port data, customer data) to better forecast the supply and demand of tank containers worldwide.
“If we can better predict availability our platform can better offer the right solutions” de Bruin says. “We are already discussing this topic with parties that are more dedicated to AI/ML solutions and have worked with large data sets. ML will also help to tackle our customers’ most pressing pain points and hopefully deliver the solutions to solve them. Time has to learn how fast and what technical resources will be available that can handle these tasks for us.”
The company is also introducing chatbots to help and educate system users on how to get the most out of the platform and to shorten feedback loops to make the user experience more efficient. stands as something of an exemplar of the new way of doing business: as a lean startup dedicated to leveraging IoT to identify and exploit existing inefficiencies in the current supply chain, it has found that the chemical industry has already begun to embrace this new way of working.
Indeed, within six months of its launch, had more than 500 registrations, of which 280 are active users of the system – cargo owners, tank operators, lessors and forwarders – including nine of the ten largest tank container operators. De Bruin estimates that the platform will ultimately reach 70 per cent of the available tanks worldwide and is aiming for at least 600 active users by the end of 2017.

It will not be long before the Uberisation of the chemical freight sector becomes a commonplace and the industry wonders how it managed before.

Peter Mackay
Editor–in–Chief of Hazardous Cargo Bulletin

Published on 2017-07-13 at 21:15 by

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