Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Orbcomm monitors refrigerated containers at sea

Steve Rogerson
May 23, 2017

Orbcomm’s VesselConnect for monitoring refrigerated containers made a splash at this month’s Transport Logistic Trade Show in Munich.
The service enables end-to-end visibility of refrigerated containers transporting temperature-sensitive, high-value cargo across water, filling the traceability gap on vessels at sea.
Critical data are displayed from refrigerated containers, including reefer status, temperature and slot location, on an application aboard the ship as well as remotely on land when data are synchronised through the cloud.
Crews can adjust reefer set points and conduct pre-trip inspections right from the application, which reduces manual labour and expedites cargo distribution on land. In addition, the system's temperature monitoring and record-keeping capabilities enable compliance with food safety regulations, including the FDA's Food Safety Modernisation Act and the USDA's cold treatment guidelines.
Using on-board GSM infrastructure, it creates a wireless local data transport network on the ship, enabling refrigerated and other containers fitted with GPS and GSM modems to continue to report while the vessel is on the water. The system automatically initiates after passing out of reach of terrestrial GSM networks, such as at the port terminal. It can typically be installed in about six hours, so there is no need for ships to spend time out of service.
A key benefit is enhanced crew efficiency and safety by eliminating the need to check the temperature status and condition of reefer containers manually. If an alarm occurs, it will be automatically displayed on the console and directed via SMS to crew phones so an engineer can be promptly sent to check and resolve any issues. The system also identifies non-performing equipment, so shore-based staff can be alerted in advance that repairs are needed, thereby reducing time out of service as well as insurance claims.
"Orbcomm is a leader and innovator in the sea container shipping industry, providing IoT that helps container assets, cargo and shipments make the move from dark, dumb and disconnected to visible, smart and connected," said Marc Eisenberg, chief executive officer of New Jersey-based Orbcomm. "By investing in Orbcomm's VesselConnect, ocean carriers and equipment OEMs can monitor and control their refrigerated container operations end-to-end across road, rail, water, ports and yards for maximum safety, efficiency and customer service."
Tote Maritime Puerto Rico, a shipping carrier specialising in moving cargo between the US mainland and Puerto Rico, is using VesselConnect to extend its ability to monitor and control its refrigerated container fleet on land to the water as well. By leveraging VesselConnect, Tote Maritime gains seamless visibility and control of its assets along the cold chain from point of origin to destination.
“By deploying Orbcomm’s VesselConnect, we have access to comprehensive, real-time information about our refrigerated sea containers that enables us to not only maximise the safety and efficiency of our supply chain operations, but also better serve our customers,” said Jim Wagstaff, VP of operations at Tote Maritime Puerto Rico. “We are proud to be the first inline shipping company in North America to adopt this cutting-edge technology, which demonstrates our leadership, flexibility and commitment to continue improving our service levels and meeting the industry’s evolving requirements.”