APIs from APM Terminals: A foundation for regional economic development

APM Terminals launched two further APIs this month and increased the number of terminals providing real-time data via its APIs. The company believes that if other supply chain partners followed this lead, it could significantly improve the competitiveness of the catchment areas supported by its terminals. 

APM Terminals has already offered APIs to monitor vessel schedules and plan and monitor import and export containers since last year. With the launch of an Empty Container Returns API this month, containers passing through APM Terminals facilities can be followed in real-time throughout the complete terminal cycle. 

APM Terminals Maasvlakte II in Rotterdam and SFCT in Miami also started feeding the company’s APIs with real-time data this month, bringing the total number of terminals to 13, and plans to add further terminals throughout this year.

Real-time data

APIs enable customers’ own logistics or transport management tools to be fed with data from APM Terminals Terminal Operating System (TOS). APIs are therefore only as effective as the data they transmit. Over recent years, APM Terminals has invested in technologies that have made TOS data increasingly accurate and even more ‘real time’, such as Radio-frequency identification (RFID), Optical Character Recognition (OCR), GPS based Position Detection Systems and 4G LTE networks.

With highly reliable data now automatically being fed into customers’ own transport management systems via APM Terminals’ APIs, customer supply chains become increasingly efficient. Transfers between different modes of transport happen with minimum delay or interruptions due to data entry errors or missing paperwork.

This significantly improves a company’s competitiveness, with goods getting to customers faster, less time and fuel spent on transport, and improved reliability and predictability, which reduces waste and stock holding.

Complete end-to-end visibility

According to David Francis, Head of Digital Products at APM Terminals, local economies could benefit significantly more if this type of technology was available for all supply chain modalities across a region or beyond. “This would involve aggregating data not only from APM Terminals APIs, but from all transport modalities, into a single regional system, to provide complete end-to-end visibility,” he explains. 

“With APIs based on common industry-wide standards, they provide the perfect platform for this. Whilst this could potentially take decades to achieve at national or even international level, starting with the regional industrial area supported by a container terminal would be more manageable, as local governance or trade bodies can normally react more quickly.”

The National Industrial Corridor Development Corporation’s Logistics Data Bank (LDB) project in India has taken this approach. In a first step, it is helping track containers continuously from the port of Pipavav to Container Freight Stations (CFSs), Inland Container Depots (ICDs) and end users using RFID. As a next step, APIs could provide additional data to increase visibility further.

In this example, enhancing the visibility and efficiency of container movements across a whole industrial region significantly improves the competitiveness of the area’s global trade and reduces overall transportation time across the sector. This benefits exporters and importers using Pipavav as their gateway port.

Ability to move faster at regional level

A number of private companies are also working hard to aggregate data from supply chain partners to provide a similar solution and many of these have already shown interest or subscribed to APM Terminals’ APIs. “This will make a significant contribution, but benefits could be unlocked more quickly by initially focussing on a specific region using APIs which already adhere to common international standards,” concludes Francis.