The shipping, freight, and logistics industries are perpetually evolving, often incorporating cutting-edge software solutions designed to optimize various facets of the industry, such as documentation management, payment processing, transportation, and warehousing, among others..
However, the considerable enhancements in efficiency provided by these software solutions often come with a sizable financial investment that many small businesses are unable to afford.. This places a strain on their limited resources and hinders their growth and competitiveness in the market..
The high costs not only include the initial investment in the software and its development but also encompass expenses related to implementation, customization, training, and ongoing maintenance, resulting in a substantial financial burden..
ODeX (Online Documents Exchange), a digital platform for online document exchange and payment facilitation in the ocean shipping industry and EXIM trade, presents itself as an accessible solution that addresses multiple aspects of the EXIM trade.. This solution is particularly attractive to small and medium-sized enterprises seeking to surmount the financial challenges associated with software..
In order to gain a comprehensive understanding of ODeX’s offerings, I examined some of the features available on their platform.. The core offerings of ODeX focus on processing export and import cargo information, including documentation, invoicing, and payments..
Freight forwarders registered on the ODeX platform can effortlessly capture and share House Bill of Lading information for import manifest registration purposes and transmit it to the shipping line..
This enables the shipping line (Master Carrier) to receive the information through their integration with ODeX and link it to the Master Bill of Lading..
Forwarders, Consolidators, NVOCCs, and shipping lines can also file both HBL and MBL manifests and send Cargo Arrival Notices to customers through the ODeX platform..
The platform also provides options for digital submission and tracking of shipping bills containing export cargo details, as well as the auto-generation of Export General Manifests following the shipping bill upload..
The Invoices and Payments feature may be the highlight of ODeX’s offerings and could be highly sought-after by numerous customers.. The process involves simple steps:
1) Register the company on ODeX..
2) Update accurate GST information.. ODeX has implemented a verification step to ensure the GST information is correct, and compliant with regulatory requirements, and that neither the entity raising the invoice nor the payee experiences delays due to inaccuracies in this information..
3) Once the GST information is verified, the system is prepared to receive the invoice and payment.. When the shipping line’s invoice is ready, it appears on the platform, and the customer is notified with a payment link.. Customers can download the invoice and also can pay using ODeX..
4) Upon receiving the invoice, the customer can make a payment using the “Quick Pay” option through Internet banking, credit card, UPI, or virtual bank accounts..
If a shipper wishes to assign the payment to their forwarder, ODeX has accommodated this with the “Agent Mapping” feature in the e-invoice dashboard..
The shipper can provide their forwarder’s details (who must be registered on ODeX), enabling the forwarder to receive the same information a shipper would and process the payment on the shipper’s behalf..
The advantage of receiving and paying invoices through the ODeX platform is that customers can access the delivery order or bill of lading from the shipping line immediately..
Generally, shipping lines release these documents only once the funds are reflected in their account, which could take several valuable days but the ODeX platform reduces it to 2-4 hours..
ODeX also provides an innovative solution for customers who may not have the necessary financial liquidity at the time.. ODeX has credit arrangements with several reputable shipping lines, which facilitate the release of Import Delivery Orders or Export Bills of Lading..
Additionally, ODeX offers customers the option to pay invoices for DPD shipments for some of the leading container terminals in India directly through the ODeX platform, based on the same principles..
This helps customers avoid unnecessary storage charges resulting from payment delays..
ODeX extends this benefit to their registered customers through the ODeX Pay Later solution, which is a convenient method for paying shipping line invoices directly and swiftly..
ODeX presents a collateral-free credit solution with minimal documentation, offering unsecured credit of up to INR 50 lakhs for small to medium value/volume shipments, and secured credit of up to INR 5 crores for large value/volume shipments..
In India, there seems to be a unique requirement for customers to request a shipment invoice for import containers from the shipping line which ODeX accommodates through their platform..
As part of this feature, customers can also view the shipping line’s terms and conditions, such as the applicable rate of exchange and its validity in real-time, which is a valuable function..
A tracking option is available on the platform to monitor when the invoice request was sent to the line and when the invoice was received.. This could, “theoretically,” make it easier for the forwarder or customer to dispute any demurrage or storage charges that may be incurred due to payment delays resulting from the delayed receipt of invoices..
The requirement for Verified Gross Mass (VGM) has been in effect since 2016, but there are still several manual versions of weighbridge certificates being forwarded, lost, and reissued, particularly in the Indian context.. ODeX platform is a DG shipping registered and secured platform for filing VGM..
ODeX seems to have successfully implemented a streamlined and secure method for transmitting this VGM data from the weighbridge facilities to the corresponding shipper or account holder, thereby minimizing the burden on weighbridge operators.
Form 13 (Terminal Gate Pass), unique to the Indian market, is a document required to permit the gate-in of a container.. It contains information such as Vehicle Number, Vessel Name, Container Number, Seal Number, ISO Code, and Shipping Line, among others..
ODeX appears to be the market leader in terms of Form 13 issuance, with leading shipping lines like Hapag Lloyd and CMA CGM and others requiring customers to use the ODeX platform to submit this Form 13..
Some shipping lines battle to ensure the full and final collection of demurrage and detention charges due to which they implement measures such as security deposits..
Security deposit is a refundable deposit that shipping lines collect from customers to ensure that they are able to collect the full demurrage and detention amounts due from customers before the cargo is released to them..
While shipping lines battle to collect demurrage and detention from some customers, some customers also battle to get refunds of these security deposits as shipping lines could take their own time to action refunds..
The ODeX solution provides a solution for both parties by enabling the tracking and monitoring of container security deposits and refunds.. This option currently being used predominantly in North India reduces the time spent in the refund process by 50% both for customers and shipping lines using ODeX..
Many importers and exporters are familiar with delays in receiving delivery orders or export bills of lading due to payments made to the shipping line not reflecting immediately in their accounts.. Even a single day’s delay can impact these releases, resulting in additional costs such as demurrage, detention, and storage for importers or exporters..
ODeX streamlines the documentation process for forwarders and shipping lines by integrating numerous requirements into an easily accessible online system..
The strength of the platform is that customers can access all options through ODeX’s website, based on a login post registration, for existing clients or clients new to ODeX..
While the registration page may appear somewhat daunting with its five-step process, this could be viewed as a necessary measure in light of the cybersecurity concerns surrounding online platforms..
As an example, ODeX mandates an authority letter for a freight forwarder to register on behalf of a consignee, with explicit instructions stating, “In case a CHA / Freight Forwarder is registering the consignee on ODeX, then attaching an authority letter (from the consignee on the consignee’s letterhead) would be mandatory. It should state that the Consignee has authorized the CHA / Freight Forwarder to register them on their behalf.”
This requirement may deter fraudulent forwarders from falsely claiming to represent multiple cargo interests..
ODeX platform offers a standardized, easy-to-use system for managing all EXIM-related shipping documentation, promoting transparency for all stakeholders involved in the process..
There is also a lot of scope for improvement of the product through further development and integration of digital features such as VGM from the weighbridge to ODeX and an automated invoice request process..
The platform is currently operating in 10 countries and aims to revolutionize international commerce by creating a Universal Distribution Solution.. This solution will simplify shipping and trade processes for businesses operating in high-volume markets and offers reasonable pricing options based on either a per-transaction or per-user basis..
The SaaS platform’s accessibility ensures that its benefits can be availed by customers from anywhere, offering sustainable solutions that are aligned with modern digital trends and environmental conservation by reducing the need for physical paperwork..
This software seems to be specific to the Indian market, so not viable in the rest of the world. I wonder though, did the IT developer bother asking small to medium traders in India whether they wanted this?