Demystifying the Confusing World of ETA Updates

The single most important information of a shipment is hands down the ETA. The cargo arrival date drives scores of business decisions: when can it be sold on, when can the receiver use it, when must the terminal operations team be ready, etc. And yet it continues to be one of the most confusing and complicated pieces of information floating back and forth across emails and phone calls in the maritime industry.

The concept of an Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) should be simple. Vessel Voyager 1 is scheduled to arrive in Rotterdam on October 1. If something changes — be it weather, berth congestion, ship repairs — that ETA changes to October 5. Two days later that may shift back to October 6. And when the ship actually arrives in port on October 7, all may have been forgotten about the original ETA of October 1.

Of course, this was just the port estimated time of arrival. The ship arrives in the port of Rotterdam on October 7, but it may not be able to go directly to its terminal and berth. So all the while, its Estimated Time of Berthing (ETB) has also been changing!  Voyager 1’s original ETB may have been October 2, is changed to October 6 and then October 7, and the actual time of berthing is October 10. 

Now the “easy” part is over, and the ship has finally arrived to load. Sparing all the gory details, there are also (potentially) important deadlines for shipments including the estimated and actual sail dates, not to mention all the dates — and their updates — connected to the cargo discharge.  Project cargo vessels, breakbulk, dry bulk, and parcel tankers all call upon multiple ports during a voyage as well. So what started as a “simple”, single number becomes a set of ~10 Estimated Time of X (where X = berth, sail, port, etc.) that can change every day. For a trans-Pacific shipment, there are typically more than 150 data points on schedule alone.

Perhaps sending a single ETA number via email is tenable and sustainable. However, over time, different cargo owners require various levels of detail on their shipment arrival times. Carriers, too, have vastly different standards of providing updates. Some send free-form emails, some send texts, others Excel sheets, and still others send nothing. Empirically, 95% of these 150 data points are lost in this format.

This system is ready for a change. Cargo-owners need a single point of truth to see their shipment ETAs, and a way to standardize input from their carriers. Voyager can automatically collect any and all ETA information and provide it — in a bespoke form — to cargo-owners. The power of collecting data is huge, and that data is waiting to be grasped.

To learn more about how Voyager can help you with ETAs, schedule a time to talk to an industry expert.

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