APL Introduces Container Industry's First Real-Time Sailing Schedule On Internet

Friday, September 24, 1999
Company Says Published Vessel Schedules, Even Static Postings on Internet, Are A Thing of the Past Airline passengers have had access to interactive flight schedules on the Internet for some time. But global manufacturers and retailers who want to dispatch even the most time-sensitive container shipments by sea have traditionally had to rely on printed schedules. At best, exporters and importers have been able to access static sailing schedules that have been posted to the Web site of a carrier or third-party schedule provider. APL, the global container and logistics provider, has just changed all that. "Carriers and their customers understand that all vessel schedules are often out of date even before they are posted or published," says Hans Hickler, APL's vice president of customer support and information strategy. "The industry has come to accept that sailing dates must be verified, and that connections may be missed because of unpublished or unexpected scheduling adjustments that result from severe weather or other factors." But such paper-based schedules are now a thing of the past, says Hickler. Updates Directly from Global Routing System "Adjustments to the new, interactive APL schedule are now made on a real-time basis, automatically updating sailing dates and times directly from APL's global logistics routing system, where all deployment information resides," says Hickler. "There is no longer a need for manual updating; now the schedule on the Web page reflects what the ships and trains are actually doing. The bottom line: the customer gets an up-to-the-moment look into the same system that APL's own customer-service personnel can access." To use APL's new interactive schedule tool, customers only have to type in the desired origin and destination ports. The system responds by displaying a selection of updated vessel departures and arrivals from which they can choose, and the customer or customer's agent can then electronically book against that selection. APL says its newest e-business product is reportedly designed to be a major time-saving and problem-avoidance tool. Used on its own, or as an enhancement to "HomePort," the customized Web portal is available to each customer at no charge. At HomePort, customers can already manage all their shipment information and transactions using exception-based summaries that have been tailored to their specific needs and job accountabilities. Another benefit of the new real-time sailing schedule is that exporters and importers can save to their HomePort screen the specific port-pair routing queries they use most often. "This eliminates the arduous query-driven review of archaic paper-based schedule tools, even those presented on the Web," says Hickler. Live Help for Those Who Want It According to Chris Corrado, APL's director of customer service, would-be users of e-business products and services are sometimes reluctant because they fear they cannot find "live" help if they need it. "Best-in-class companies - a goal to which we aspire - know that their e-business will live or die by the level of customer support behind it," says Corrado. To address this concern, APL continues to redefine its definition of customer service, working with customers to understand how they want to do business and developing tools and skills to support them. "The Internet, a growing medium of choice, is an enabler for those customers who want to use it, and we will support them fully as they become comfortable with it," said Corrado.
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