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Apr.3, 2017

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SURFACE & DOMESTIC TRANSPORTATION TRUCKING | RAIL | INTERMODAL | AIR & EXPEDITED | DISTRIBUTION 44 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE APRIL 3.2017 US SHIPPERS LOOKING for help in matching inbound and outbound ocean containers, reducing costs, and increasing equipment availability, have plenty of options, but questions remain as to whether a single clearinghouse has the right combination of market penetration, shipper network, and price. On March 14, ocean shipping technol- ogy provider INTTRA announced it had acquired European container tracking busi- ness Avantida and plans to rollout Avantida's suite of products in the US this year. That same day, US-based Matchback Systems announced the formation of its board of directors to help lead growth in North American and European markets where the 2-year-old company already has a presence. But with similar, and older, products in the US postponing future growth, and shippers still unsatisfied with the matchback providers online, it's unclear whether the private sector has what it takes to make sensitive matchback solutions sustainable. "There is not any one good clearinghouse of information that we can go to and say this works for these two shippers, this import and this export," Carl Wasinger, founder and CEO of Kansas City- based Smart Warehousing, told the JOC's 17th Annual TPM Conference in Long Beach on March 1. "I think there's an opportunity, if someone is listening." Matchback Systems and Avantida prom- ise to provide shippers with an information clearinghouse to help find importers and exporters empty containers for repositioning and shipment. Finding those empty containers is a significant hurdle in many inland markets in the US and Europe, as import cargo often ends up in central hubs far from production sites that need those containers for export. "There's a $20 billion repositioning problem with containers that goes on worldwide. The chances you go outside and see a container loaded is just as likely as you see one empty," Todd Ericksrud, president and CEO of Matchback Systems, told The Journal of Commerce. Matchbacking — pairing exporters (often agriculture loads) with importers (often consumer merchandise) — in the US heartland has been a long-discussed, but underutilized solution to reducing the number of costly empty container moves in the supply chain. The solution has become more attractive in recent years. Ocean carriers, Class I railroads, and other transportation providers see a widening window for matchbacks to boost international ocean container business in a soft economy. Importers save money because the inland container interchange location is a shorter haul than returning the empty container to a seaport. Exporters benefit from a steady supply of containers and lower container repositioning costs. INTTR A's Avantida and Matchback Systems promise to solve the same problem, but by different means. Avantida, which launched in November 2012, allows European trucking companies or landside container management compa- nies carrying an import ocean container inland to initiate a request via the platform with an ocean carrier, asking to keep the container in order to fulfill an export move later. "The Avantida system allows the cus- tomer to send a message to the carrier who can then integrate it into their operating sys- tem and approve or disapprove that reuse," INTTRA CEO John Fay said. "And just this simple process saves a significant amount of money and offers other benefits to the cus- tomer. So, for the trucking company, they don't have to take the container back to the terminal, and to pick up a new one and bring that back, so it cuts off two legs of drayage." Avantida's technology takes a laborious process that originally occurred via phone, email, or fax and automates it, Fay told The Journal of Commerce. It does this not just from the initiation of the original request from the trucker, but all the way through settlement operations, he said. Avantida is now only available in seven countries in Europe including Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, and Portugal. INTTRA, a New Jersey-based company with a foothold in the electronic cargo-booking sphere, plans to launch SEEKING THAT PERFECT MATCH Shippers see a glaring gap in the development of a clearinghouse to sync import and export boxes By Reynolds Hutchins

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