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July 3, 2023

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30 Journal of Commerce | J uly 3, 2023 Technology Some carriers, in turn, are charging vendors a fee — in the neighborhood of $1,700 per month — to subscribe to an API that gives them access to a certain number of container status "requests" on a monthly basis. Other carriers offer their API free to shippers but charge a "nomi- nal" fee to third-party visibility providers, sources told the Journal of Commerce. "The carriers were never really happy about [their websites being pinged for container status] because it is indecipherable from a denial-of-ser- vice attack," said Bryn Heimbeck, CEO of Trade Tech, a logistics management software vendor. "A server you don't know keeps running queries against your system. More and more of these online tracking, booking and spot rates requests are login/password-protected and carriers are not giving this out to software companies." Heimbeck said Trade Tech has been able to secure electronic inte- grations with most of the major container lines and some smaller intra-Asia carriers by leveraging a cus- tomer's need with a specific carrier. "The days of having to go through a portal are numbered," he said. Different approaches While all carriers are using tools to prevent scraping, including barriers such as captchas or bot detection and mitigation services, certain ones are being more aggressive than others. "Usually, the less innovative carriers with poorer track-and-trace capability are the first to implement these, with no alternatives such as API or even EDI [electronic data interchange] connections, being offered in place to customers," said Tyler Hughes, chief technology offi- cer at visibility provider Vizion. container lines are owners or merely custodians of shipment information related to the cargo they move. "We're not trying to resell the carriers' data," the chief information officer at one 3PL, who asked not to be identified, told the Journal of Commerce. "We're trying to give their own customers data about their shipments. But I get it, everybody and their mom is trying to scrape." Most of a handful of carriers contacted by the Journal of Com - merce didn't immediately respond to requests for comment on whether they are intentionally blocking third parties from accessing container sta- tus data on their websites. But one, who asked not to be identified, said that virtually every carrier deploys programs to protect their sites, especially if they see specific third parties making several hundred or thousand hits per day in an attempt to scrape. Evolving demands The more robust defenses are, in some sense, a defense against the number of data requests carriers' websites now receive on a continuous basis. With the proliferation of visibil- ity vendors in the market over the past decade — both standalone providers and 3PLs offering visibility tools — container lines are essentially being asked dozens of times to provide infor- mation for the same status events. The situation gets even more complicated when a large shipper with leverage asks a carrier to create a direct feed with the shipper's visibil- ity vendor of choice, forcing uneasy relationships with third parties that carriers see as monetizing carrier or shipper data. OCEAN CARRIERS ARE aggressively preventing software vendors and third-party logistics providers (3PLs) from scraping container milestone data from their websites as demand for visibility continues to grow. A number of visibility and ship- ment management software vendors told the Journal of Commerce that carriers are seeking to make it harder for those vendors to web scrape for status information, forcing vendors to create direct feeds with carriers or use carriers' application programming interfaces (APIs). "Most of the carriers use some form of anti-bot managers," Akshay Dodeja, CEO of visibility provider Terminal49, told the Journal of Commerce. Those anti-bot programs, such as Cloudfare and Akamai, detect scraping programs and prevent them from accessing the contents of a website. "This is a moving target, and it's a cat-and-mouse game," Dodeja said. "It got worse during COVID when the volumes were high and there was more congestion. It makes it really challenging to monitor container milestone changes programmatically, especially for anyone who manages more than a few containers a month." Attempts to access data from carrier websites come amid a long-simmering debate over whether Data dredging Ocean carriers guarding their digital gates as visibility requests increase By Eric Johnson Container lines are oen being asked to provide information for the same status events dozens of times. Transportation Management | Compliance | Visibility | Procurement

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