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South Sea Cargo Container Tracker

Replacing the foundation on a local shipping business's information system.

I approached an acquaintence I had recently met with the intent of understanding his business’s problems to look for somewhere I could offer my services. Right off the bat, he told me he already knows what he wants based on the software he used at his old company and we started working together right there. That’s how I began developing the information system for South Sea Cargo.


South Sea Cargo truck & crew

South Sea Cargo provides inter-island cargo transportation. They operate a barge which can carry up to 33 standard TEU containers and other over-sized items such as trucks, construction equipement, various odd-shaped items and more. But beyond the barge they provide full-service delivery too. South Sea Cargo maintains an inventory of almost 100 containers and a fleet of delivery trucks which provide empty containers at the customer’s premise and transport the full container to their final delivery destination.

At the point at which I arrived they have been using a popular chat messaging app as a centralized reporting channel which staff in the office would read to maintain an Excel sheet with the latest container locations as reported in these chat groups. Plus, there were chat groups for maintenance reports, bookings, and for providing updates to individual customers.

South Sea Cargo’s operation has been growing making it harder to maintain this system accurately. Eventually, it won’t be tenable. In fact, a contributing factor for starting the project was earlier that year they unknowningly lost a container on an outer-island and only recovered it a few months later after a driver just happened to come across it and called it into the main office.


South Sea Cargo has a decent sized operation maintained by a dozen staff and equal number of drivers so replacing all of this in one step is not going to to happen nor do I believe it to be wise to attempt. Together we opted to begin by replacing only the Excel sheet which maintained the current locations of their fleet of containers. From there we would build upon that foundation to add new featuers down the road.


I setup an instance of Directus on a VPS and built the required tables for tracking the container movements. Then, I built out a UI via a custom Directus module plugin.

With these tables included structured location data to help identify containers by island or region. Locating empty containers used to be a tedious job which is important so a customer can be provided an empty container to fill with their goods to be transported.

Areas Page

With the database in place we can recreate the original Excel sheet and present all of the current container locations.

Containers Positions Page

However, with the database we can now click on a conatiner to explore the container’s movement history which was not possible in the Excel based system.

Container History Page

Because we are collecting so much more information compared to the original Excel based system we can answer more questions than previously possible such as:

  • Which containers are located at X?
  • Driver Y transported which containers {today,yesterday,last month}?
  • How many empty containers are on island Z and their exact locations.
  • How does our container utlization compare to last month?

Container Maintenance

Container Maintenance Page

Given the simplicity of development afforded by Directus I quickly threw in a container maintenance feature. Similar to tracking container movements this feature records container maintenance jobs for the duration of the container’s life.

With this feature comes the ability to begin scheduling maintenance pro-actively rather than responding re-actively to unexpected damage reports.

In addition, I added container maintenance warnings to the container’s detail page to make staff aware to the container’s known maintenance state so staff can take that into consideration when deciding if a container is fit to carry a particular load. This saves time and delays from drivers calling into the office to say they can’t take an empty container to a customer because someone forgot that the container had a hole in the floor or such damage making it unfit for the particular goods it was selected to carry.


I look forward to continuing the development of the container tracker to help South Sea Cargo improve their services. It was a relatively painless transfer from the old system to the new Directus system and not long after the staff have begun praising the benefits provided by the database.

The next steps will continue to migrate more of South Sea Cargo’s operations from chat messaging and informal systems to the database to improve their services.

  • directus
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