What do tapioca, shipping containers
and artificial intelligence
have in common?
How innovative tech like AI can revolutionize the shipping industry
July 5th 2021
ou may have heard about the bizarre shortage of tapioca in the news recently. Despite the popular demand in North America, bubble tea sales slowed down since drinks were being sold with a lot less tapioca back in April 2021, an item that is usually imported in from Asian markets. What most may not know is that this was tied to a much larger issue that has been affecting the shipping industry all across the globe. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the shipping industry has faced a shortage of containers in the supply chain with markets either having too few containers, or some ports overloaded with them. With implications on supply chains everywhere, ports and understaffed crews were left scrambling to get each container where they needed to go. A major vulnerability in supply chains that has existed for a long time was exposed by the pandemic, many calling it “the perfect storm”. This left everyone in the shipping industry wondering how things could change, leading them to think outside the box to come up with alternate solutions. It turns out, innovations in artificial intelligence and IoT technologies are proving to be the saving grace for the future of the shipping industry.
To understand this problem, it’s best to start at the cargo routes connecting Asian and North American ports. As the first country to be struck with the virus, China also became one of the first countries to recover from COVID-19. While many countries were in lockdown, and imposed restrictions on shipping imports and exports, China had resumed shipping activity. Since they began to export goods in containers however, Chinese ports were having a hard time getting their containers back. For every 100 containers that were being shipped from China, only about 40 made its way back. China got desperate for containers, and ended up paying premium prices for empties, with some 40 ft containers rising in price from $2000 to a whopping $9000.