CORE: Seacon benefits from faster transport

How a logistics service provider and a tech giant from Venlo created a safe maritime supply chain between Malaysia and Limburg.

Seacon acts as logistics chain director for numerous internationally-operating companies, including Océ Technologies, an autonomous part of the Japanese company Canon. With this client, the service provider from Venlo set up a reliable supply chain within the scope of CORE between Malaysia and Limburg. The faster transportation that accompanies this is very welcome, says Senior Manager Air & Ocean, Gé Coenen. “Anything in transit costs money.”

How was the first contact with Customs?
“Our organisations knew each other from earlier collaboration projects, such as Integrity and Cassandra. My colleagues and I have positive memories of this. We see the service as innovative and future-orientated. So we did not have to give the idea of contributing to CORE much consideration. It goes without saying that we are, where possible, at the forefront, as director of the chain. In that role, we facilitate the shipping of goods from factory to recipient.”

What does the chain look like that you have deployed as demonstration project?
“Though we also coordinate air freight shipments, we exclusively focused on ocean freight in the CORE programme. The route that we put forward runs from Penang to our base in Venlo – a city that has developed into an important logistics hub. As we like to put it: we bring the port to the Dutch and German hinterland.
Now back to Penang. A shipment of industrial printers stands waiting by the production line of Océ Technologies, ready and all packed up. We ensure a container is available at the factory at the agreed time. After loading, the container is sealed with a smart seal – a concept that we developed with a technology company, and used for the pilot. This digital seal measures temperature differences and changes in light intensity, which can show whether the container has been opened in transit. After loading, the truck departs for the port of Penang, a journey that takes approximately 45 minutes. Once there, the container is transferred to a freighter, which then sails to Singapore’s main port or Port Klang, where it is then transferred to a main ocean vessel, which then sets course for Rotterdam. After docking, the container is immediately unloaded and sent to its final destination in Venlo.”

 How does Customs monitor such a journey?
“Seacon uses a local agent/partner. This party takes care of all the activities that are needed to load the container and prepare it for export. The documents, such as a packing list and a commercial invoice, are uploaded from the source in our system. These documents are again coupled to an order number. Then several unique numbers – of the container and seal for example – are recorded.Our partner places all the shipment-related datain his own portal,andwe copy them one for one.In this way, you can create a data pipeline with unadulterated information from the source. This not only reduces the administrative burden of all participating players, it also reduces the risk of human errors such as typing errors. Part of the data is left unprotected, in consultation with Océ Technologies and Customs. Customs officers are, of course, especially interested in the documents pertaining to a shipment, and in the question of whether they were provided directly by the source. Via their own dashboard, they can see what we have designated as a trusted CORE shipment based on the notifications.”

How do you guarantee security after the shipment has left Malaysia?
“The movements of the ocean vessel itself can be followed continuously via track & trace. But this does not apply to individual containers; there is no direct connection with the container itself. Nevertheless, because we know where the shipment is throughout the entire journey to Rotterdam, we can provide both our client and Customs with information on the expected arrival time well in advance. Once the goods have arrived in Rotterdam, we ensure that the documentation is prepared for settlement and organise the planning for the journey to Limburg. The smart seal is deactivated at the shipment’s final destination in Venlo, under the supervision of Customs if desired.”

 Does this method truly completely cover the risks?
“We have discussed this with Customs on numerous occasions. Look, at the moment the containers are loaded, you can speak of a minimum risk thanks to the use of digital seals and the process described. The smart seal is only deactivated after the container reaches its final destination. However, the possibility cannot be entirely excluded that someone who is involved in packing the boxes does try to conceal contraband with the goods. If Customs wants more control over the chain, then one would have to monitor various preceding processes in the factory on-site. On the other hand: we are talking about Océ Technologies here, a trusted trader.”

 What has the CORE project yielded for Seacon and its customers?
“For us as chain director, there are, to start with, savings in the administrative sphere. In the past, each logistics step required a number of actions. Documents had to be transferred from one system to the next; each player in the chain added one’s own data. We have realised a substantial efficiency improvement, particularly by the source in Malaysia, by uploading all the information in one system simultaneously – we are talking here in regard to the whole route, from the factory to the first port. Because the process is administratively covered so well, we can nowadays make a good calculation of how much time the entire route will take from the factory in Malaysia to the recipient. In the past, we used an estimate of, for example, six to eight weeks. Now we dare to state that the journey will take six weeks.The advantage hereof for the customer is self-evident: he can make better predictions and plan more effectively if there is no or little delay. Moreover, anything in transit costs money. And last but not least: Customs can make a better risk analysis, thanks to the quality of the data in the pipeline.”

Do the results leave you wanting more?
“For sure. CORE may have been officially completed, but we have not been left sitting on our laurels. For example, we have been looking at whether we can develop the demonstration route into a business case for more customers and logistic flows. We want to map out various trusted trade lanes from the region. Of course, this will not happen overnight. Malaysia and Singapore like the idea of intensive cooperation, and Asia is an important market for us. But not all countries have progressed equally, as regards security and control over the processes. Furthermore, some businesses are also perhaps fearful of disclosing what they see as company secrets.
In addition, we are looking at the possibility of creating a round trip in the systems from this specific chain. Océ components already now travel via Venlo to the factory in Penang. We are investigating whether we can use the same containers for this route and whether we can also share the associated unadulterated source information in the data pipeline. Direct cooperation between the two customs services would make this process easier. The Netherlands is open to this, I understand.”

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