Offshore reefer containers equipped with refrigeration systems to maintain optimal temperature and humidity during transportation are crucial for the safe and timely delivery of perishable goods in today’s globalised economy.
However, tracking and managing these containers in the vast ocean is not a straightforward process. This is where GPS tracking systems come into play, revolutionising offshore reefer container logistics.
What are GPS tracking systems?
GPS, or Global Positioning System, is a satellite-based navigation system that tracks and monitors locations in real-time. GPS tracking systems use satellites to locate a GPS-equipped object or vehicle. In logistics and transportation, these systems can be exploited to provide data for route optimisation, security, and operational efficiency.
In practice, GPS tracking systems can be classified into two types: active and passive. Active GPS tracking systems transmit data in real-time or at regular intervals, allowing continuous monitoring and control of the reefer containers.
Passive GPS tracking systems store data in an internal memory and transmit it only when requested or when within range of a receiver, allowing periodic checking and analysis of the reefer containers.
Types of GPS tracking systems used in logistics
In general, GPS tracking systems offer numerous benefits, such as improved fleet management, enhanced security, and better customer service. Let’s briefly explore some of the key types of GPS tracking technologies commonly used:
- Real-time tracking: Real-time GPS tracking systems provide continuous location updates, enabling logistics operators to monitor the movement of their assets in real-time. This allows for proactive decision-making and prompt response to any deviations from planned routes or schedules.
- Geo-fencing: Geo-fencing technology allows logistics companies to define virtual boundaries or geographically-restricted areas. When a GPS-equipped asset crosses these pre-defined boundaries, the system triggers alerts, enabling immediate action to be taken.
- Temperature monitoring GPS: For perishable goods transported in reefer containers, temperature monitoring is crucial. GPS tracking systems can integrate with temperature sensors within containers, providing real-time temperature data. This ensures that the cargo remains within the required temperature range, minimising the risk of spoilage.
Benefits of using GPS tracking systems in general logistics
Cargo monitoring: Reefer tracking systems provide full cold chain visibility from multiple devices. If the reefer gets too warm, shipment owners can get mobile alerts. With GPS equipment location and status information, reefer fleet utilisation, dwell or cycle times, and repositioning costs are reduced.
Increase operational efficiency: Reefer tracking systems monitor cold chain temperatures automatically. By centralising and automating the temperature logbook, manual records are eliminated, thereby eliminating operational inefficiencies.
Faster response in case of trouble: Reaction time is important in refrigerated shipping. Reefer tracking systems allow fast response times in case of any technical challenges, like drastic temperature changes. This enables crews to react appropriately to save the cargo.
Enables data-driven decision-making: With the data from reefer tracking systems, freight providers have sufficient information to optimise routes or overhead costs.
Enhanced cargo security: Reefer tracking systems can help deter and help prevent cargo theft, tampering, and fraud. Some systems have unique mechanisms for remotely detecting threats to ensure optimal security.
Minimise temperature-related spoilage: Most temperature-related spoilage is caused by reefer unit failure. However, tracking systems can send automated alerts to keep reefer units in top condition. Reefer tracking systems’ extensive temperature data loggers can provide actionable container temperature data, and If integrated with GPS location tracking, they can determine temperature variations and periods of variation to reduce cargo spoilage.
The role of offshore reefer containers in global supply chain and logistics
Generally speaking, offshore reefer containers are an integral part of the global supply chain, facilitating the transportation of temperature-sensitive goods across vast distances.
These containers maintain precise temperature and humidity conditions, ensuring the freshness and quality of perishable products during transit.
Whether it’s the pharmaceutical, food, or floral industry, offshore reefer containers play a vital role in preserving the integrity of perishable goods.
GPS tracking in offshore reefer container logistics
Now, let’s delve into how GPS tracking systems specifically aid in offshore reefer container logistics.
- Accurate location tracking: When offshore reefer containers traverse vast ocean expanses, it is crucial to have real-time visibility of their precise locations. GPS tracking systems enable logistics operators to monitor the exact positions of these containers, ensuring they stay on the planned shipping routes.
- Route optimisation: GPS tracking helps optimise routes for offshore reefer containers. By analysing historical data and considering factors such as weather conditions and port congestion, logistics operators can determine the most efficient routes to minimise transit times and reduce fuel consumption.
- Temperature monitoring: Maintaining optimal temperature conditions inside offshore reefer containers is vital to preserving the freshness and quality of perishable goods. GPS tracking systems integrate with temperature sensors within containers, allowing logistics operators to monitor temperature fluctuations in real-time. The idea is that in case of any deviations, immediate corrective measures can be taken to prevent spoilage.
- Security and anti-theft measures: Offshore reefer containers can be valuable targets for theft or unauthorised access. GPS tracking systems provide real-time alerts and location data, enabling swift response in case of any suspicious activities. This enhances container security and minimises the risk of cargo loss.
How does GPS tracking help in route optimisation?
GPS tracking plays a crucial role in route optimisation for offshore reefer container logistics. By leveraging real-time location data, historical information, and advanced analytics, logistics operators can optimise routes in the following ways:
- Avoiding weather-related risks: GPS tracking systems provide up-to-date weather information, enabling logistics operators to make informed decisions and reroute vessels to avoid adverse weather conditions. This helps mitigate the risks of delays, cargo damage, and vessel accidents.
- Optimising port calls: GPS tracking systems allow for efficient port management by providing accurate arrival and departure times. This helps streamline operations and reduces waiting times at ports, resulting in improved overall supply chain efficiency.
- Minimising fuel consumption: By analysing historical data and considering factors such as vessel speed, wind conditions, and currents, GPS tracking systems can suggest optimal vessel speeds and routes to minimise fuel consumption. This reduces operational costs and contributes to environmental sustainability.
The future of GPS tracking in offshore reefer container logistics
As technology continues to advance, the future of GPS tracking in offshore reefer container logistics holds exciting possibilities. Here are some emerging trends and potential applications:
- Enhanced sensor integration: GPS tracking systems can be further integrated with advanced sensors to monitor additional parameters such as humidity, air quality, and shock/vibration levels. This comprehensive data can provide valuable insights into the condition of perishable goods throughout the transportation process.
- Artificial intelligence and predictive analytics: By harnessing the power of AI and predictive analytics, GPS tracking systems can optimise logistics operations by predicting potential delays, identifying bottlenecks, and suggesting alternative routes in real-time. Thereby, improving efficiency and minimising disruptions.
- Blockchain technology: Blockchain, with its decentralised and immutable nature, holds promise for enhancing transparency and security in offshore reefer container logistics. GPS tracking systems integrated with blockchain can provide an immutable record of container movements, temperature conditions, and other relevant data, ensuring trust and accountability across the supply chain.
In conclusion, GPS tracking systems have revolutionised offshore reefer container logistics by providing real-time visibility, optimising routes, ensuring temperature control, and enhancing security. As technology evolves, GPS tracking will offer even greater efficiency, reliability, and sustainability in perishable goods transportation.
A graduate (Business) from KDU, Jason Tan, is the current Business Director (Sales) for MGS Icestorm and has been associated with the company for the past 10 years.
With over 13 years in the shipping industry, he has had a significant contribution to Malaysia’s oil and gas industry in the engine and boat supply sector.
His expertise includes managing offshore catering business, offshore reefer containers, AI technology, offshore gas tanks, A60 pressurized cabins, etc. His contributions have helped establish MGS, in partnership (joint venture) with Thermo King and Honeywell to produce state of art Offshore Reefer Container products.