International end-to-end container tracking

Maritime and last-mile container tracking

Out team finally could locate quickly when they needed to the location of our shipments”

Virginia Navarro Quiroga, Sales Manager North Area & Intermodal Sales Senior Manager, Containerships CMA CGM Ibérica & President of A.C.B.E.


Container tracking enables improving the operational efficiency and the overall team satisfaction. That was the goal of this innovative partnership. Containerships is a company focused on containerised cargo transport, serving with their lines the ports between Morocco and the Canary Islands to the Baltics. The challenge they faced is that they couldn’t have any real and effective way to stay up-to-date on the location and status of their containers or those they need to transport. These situations include the availability of containers, knowing if the shipment is ready for collection, the status of the terminal and coordinating everything with the ship arrival at port so that the assets can be timely picked up from the terminal. This uncertainty reverts to the end customer who has no way of knowing with certainty when they will receive their goods.



Requests for information were made manually through telephone calls and e-mails. The average wait time in the industry before any response is four hours, sometimes reaching up to a few days on some occasions. During that time, the Containerships team couldn’t move forward with their tasks, causing cost overruns and frustration. Once the response was received, it was usually at very short notice, resulting in a reactive and inefficient work. The team was only able to make estimates, and it was only through hard work that they could meet the goals.


The objective of our partnership with Containerships was to provide real-time container tracking from a single dashboard during all phases of an operation, from the time a container is required, during shipping and to when it is delivered to destination. In maritime transport there is the added complexity of having to coordinate this with maritime transport. It is normal to resort to different web platforms that offer the estimated position and arrival of ships to port.

The proof of concept

After receiving various eShells at their office in Bilbao, a workshop was held via videoconferencing to undergo initial tests in a controlled environment and then deploy the eShells in real transport. In no time the time was already able to start the first trials. The eShells were attached to the inner side of the container door in seconds using the built-in magnet. A few initial trials were conducted to see the capabilities of the Shellock solution, that saw some of the eShells travelling along the northern Spanish seaside. The first hinterland transit was from Bilbao to Madrid by rail. Once the container was received back at the Bilbao facility and after seeing the success of tracking the first journey, it was decided to leave the eShell installed in the container and track the next transport to Valencia.


It was able to track the entire route, transit times, and provided the Containerships team with real-time access to their location and conditions. The results of this first proof of concept showed that there was better connectivity than anticipated from within the container, with the added benefit of being able to get direct data on the interior condition of the container such as its temperature and when the doors are opened.

Hinterland shipping container tracking in Spain
Tracking of a rail transport in the hinterland

International shipping container tracking

Due to the success of these proof of concepts, it was decided to scale up the tracking to more challenging international shipments. We chose common routes with which the Containerships team had more experience, to better match measurements and their impact against the normal conditions. This time all shipments would have a maritime transit and the entire shipment could be tracked from the first to the last mile, the complete end-to-end.
Using the magnetic function, the eShells were placed inside the containers on the door so that if they were opened the light would be detected. The most important thing was that the moment the container doors are opened, an automatic notification could be sent signalling light detection. This notification among other events were available alerts on the platform.
In conclusion, all shipments tracked by the eShells were able to be located due to the location data that was given. The Containerships team had up-to-date information to prepare for receiving the shipments. It was validated that the technology of the eShells, despite being located inside the containers, offered very good signal. The feature the Containerships team enjoyed the most was that it was possible to install the trackers in seconds without any special requirements or tools, and receive reliable data and signal from inside containers. 
Shipping container tracking in the north sea and baltics
Maritime tracking of a container and during its international last mile

The outcome

Tracking the containers both on land and sea and the ships ETA at port in a single interface greatly simplified the operations team’s work. They didn’t have to perform any manual queries on shipment status on external platforms. They only had confirm receipt of the containers at the destination. Using the eShell and the Shellock platform, Containerships was provided with the necessary information. Considering that it typically takes a few hours for each request for an update on the status of a shipment, with Shellock they reliably had the updated information in seconds.


For the return of investment calculation of this deployment, we contrasted what were the normal waiting times and the rate of problems when coordinating handovers and transports. It is quite normal that the team has to manage this operations manually, which very time consuming and frustrating waiting for a confirmation. The monthly cost per eShell, including the availability of international connectivity and all of the web platform features is lower than the cost of one man-hour. After analysing the data and confirming the findings with the team, it was measured a ROI of more than 100%.