Maritime CEO

Portcast: What shipping can learn from aviation when it comes to efficiency

Portcast, a Singapore-based startup, which is focused on digitisation solutions for the logistics industry, is looking to launch its initial product in the next year.

Started by a former DHL veteran Nidhi Gupta, Portcast is a business model that uses proprietary machine learning and real-time trade data to provide predictive analytics, which helps logistics companies predict their demand and cargo arrival, better utilise their assets, such as ships and ports, and enable effective spot pricing of their products.

“We believe that there is a fundamental shift happening in the logistics industry at the moment. With the digital e-commerce giants becoming full-fledged logistics companies, traditional logistics companies need to be better, not just bigger. This is where data will be crucial to gain efficiency – both internal and external data. Hence, we started Portcast to bring external data and the latest technology stack to make logistics companies more efficient,” says Gupta, Portcast’s CEO.

Gupta believes this digitalisation work will seamlessly integrate ports, forwarders and shipping lines. It essentially brings together the entire maritime logistics chain, through the smart and efficient use of data.

Gupta reckons the current forecasts for cargo demand and arrival are only about 70 – 80% accurate on average and this is because companies rely on historical data, market averages and intuition, and spreadsheets. Currently this inaccurate forecasting can clearly be seen on the transpacific where carriers are throwing extra ships on the tradelane belatedly to make up for a busier peak season than predicted.

Gupta compares the current logistics market with the passenger airlines, an industry with similar demand-supply dynamics and struggling with margins.

“They [the airline industry] have adopted scientific demand forecasting, capacity utilisation and dynamic yield management technologies since the 1980s and are now revamping those with the massive online data explosion. Why is the logistics industry, especially shipping, unable to do the same?” Gupta says.

Portcast is bringing the same technology that passenger airlines and stock market predictions utilise to the logistics and shipping industry. Gupta believes it will enable companies to improve their forecasts to almost 85 – 95% and bring direct profitability to their bottom line.

In Gupta’s opinion, the past decades in the logistics industry have been focused on increasing investment in assets whereas in the next decade it will be critical to set up digitisation solutions in two key areas. To be efficient “inside” – get more return on investment from the exisiting assets though artificial intelligence, and to be connected “outside” – improving information flow between handovers across the supply chain through Internet of Things (IoT) sensors on containers, global positioning systems (GPS) on trucks or blockchain.

“That said, solution development is ultimately driven by people,” Gupta stresses. “It is important for the maritime logistics industry to attract talents with the ability to develop innovative solutions that can transform the industry,” she adds.

Gupta admits that government support is crucial in this respect. “The support from national initiatives such as Maritime Singapore Connect (MSC) Office is currently helping to take us further in the right direction, to connect with talents who are looking for pathways into the maritime industry,” Gupta says.

Portcast intends to fully launch its initial product for the maritime logistics industry in the next 12 months.

“Portcast has achieved incredible traction in less than a year of incorporation. We believe that Singapore, with its strategic port location and with government initiatives is the perfect place for Portcast to develop and grow its technology,” Gupta concludes.


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