January 2002 | Commentary | Supply Chain Technology

Web Portal Delivers Ocean Freight Connectivity

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Despite some wavering in the e-commerce industry, web portals are not only here to stay, they have great potential to be a B2B growth area, and for good reason. Portals allow companies to take advantage of immediate, online access to trading partners, suppliers, and service providers. This access can lead to greater levels of collaboration, increased globalization, and a broader selection of business partners.

In an efficient supply chain, the flow of goods, information, and services depends on increased collaboration within a global context. Portals provide this efficiency.

Parsippany, N.J-based INTTRA is one example of a portal that has fed off this demand. Founded in April 2000, INTTRA's robust portal concentrates its services on ocean freight transportation, and has received support from logistics providers and global carriers worldwide. INTTRA enables transport buyers, freight forwarders, third-party logistics providers, importers, brokers and industry portals to manage and track information about goods in the pipeline through an integrated process that focuses on multiple shipping lines.

INTTRA offers its services through a web-based portal, which meets global supply chain demands for "simplicity, transparency, neutrality, and confidentiality. It is designed to deliver connectivity by establishing global shipping standards," according to the company.

The Service Menu

INTTRA-act and INTTRA-link are the company's two main services. INTTRA-act is a portal service, available through a standard web browser, that provides standardized booking capabilities for containerized ocean cargo, operational schedules, and track and trace services for participating carriers. INTTRA-act functionality was developed both in-house and by working with strategic software partners and systems integrators to meet time-to-market demands.

INTTRA-link provides similar functionality, but is integrated with shipper and freight forwarder back-end systems via standardized EDI integration links. INTTRA's connectivity guidebook, which describes EDIFACT and ANSI EDI transactions, provides mapping standards that enable new customers to begin using INTTRA's services quickly.

Security exists within the two systems. "INTTRA software is hosted in an IBM global services environment, which includes security services—INTTRA is SAS-70 certified—as well as network and systems management services," according to Ken Bloom, CEO of INTTRA.

How do companies decide between using INTTRA-act and INTTRA-link? "Companies that are reviewing multiple schedules and bookings with multiple carriers, either manually or by logging on to many different web sites, see the benefits of INTTRA-act's booking functionality," says Bloom. "They see the benefits of using a single application to interact electronically with participating carriers."

Developing a Single Link

INTTRA-link is best leveraged by companies that are currently using EDI to support some or all of their B2B ocean transactions. In general, these firms have developed and maintained individual EDI links to each carrier (at an estimated cost of $50,000 annually).

"With INTTRA-link, we work with companies to develop a single link to our transportation network infrastructure that supports booking and scheduling for 12 member carriers," Bloom says.

Here's a summary of INTTRA's core services:

  • Booking— includes template-driven booking requests, standard booking with participating carriers, managing and recording booking activities, standard carrier confirmation, retrievable booking templates, point-and-click web interface, and 24/7 capabilities.
  • Carrier sailing schedules, which center on a view of all participating carrier sailing schedules, multiple-criteria searches, comprehensive carrier information, seamless integration with sailing schedules, direct access to online booking processes, and timeless access.
  • Track & trace features— global visibility to containerized cargo, trading partner access for tracking information, user configurable interface, multi-criteria search capabilities, standard event notification from carriers, point-and-click capabilities, and online help 24/7.

For more information on INTTRA, see www.inttra.com.

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