What is an API?

Application Programming Interface, or API, is a cloud-based intermediary that allows two programs to communicate with each other.

These programs may have different designs and codes. This is why it presents a logistical and technical challenge to have two programs that are built differently to communicate with each other without disruption. Through APIs, standard industry integrations are there to make information exchange easier.

In freight & shipping, APIs enable a seamless exchange of information between businesses and customers, pushing data through the Transport Management System (TMS), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), and Warehouse Management System (WMS). Several businesses and freight forwarders are these systems and APIs in-house as well.

Use Cases of Logistics APIs

Application Programming Interface or API bridges the gap between multiple parties in logistics. It has a range of uses cases, like

  • Quote Rate: Send rate quote, dimensional freight quote, spot volume requests, and return pricing results.
  • Transit Time: Recover standard transit time from various carriers and get the expected transit time for vessels with the click of a button.
  • Dispatch Confirmation: Send pick-up requests and receive pick-up confirmation online.
  • Documents Retrieval: Request shipping documents such as Bills of Lading (BoL), delivery receipts, weight, and inspection certificates. Receive invoice summary and other bill details.
  • Real-time Tracking: Track specific shipments, containers, or vessels with real-time visibility.
  • Port Information: Request the nearest terminal location or port information.

Advantages of APIs

API has numerous benefits for carriers and shippers. It helps exchange information securely and increases the focus on nurturing relationships over pushing paper.

Other benefits include:

  • Automation through automated workflows, eliminating manual inputs and reducing chances of error
  • Customization via tailored user experiences and building customer confidence 
  • Adaptation with the flexibility to be updated as per organizational needs and processes
  • Insights through better and real-time data, facilitating improved decision-making
  • Simplification via an easy-to-use interface with lesser disruptions


Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and Application Programming Interface (API) are both used to exchange data between two systems electronically. Although, there are a few differences in the way these systems operate.

1 EDI transmits data formats like XML, ANSI, VDA, UBL, TRADACOMS, or EDIFACT. APIs are not limited to specific data formats, nor do they need to change the formats for transmission. 
2 EDIs are generally more expensive and, therefore, suitable for large enterprises. APIs are faster and cheaper and can be used by small to midsize shippers and carriers.
3 EDIs are comparatively slow and thus, becoming obsolete. APIs are more agile & responsive, thus, replacing EDIs.

However, APIs are yet to reach the point where they can generate more data than is available, like EDI. All in all, APIs are becoming the preferred choice to drive logistics systems and applications. Businesses deploying API will fastrack to seamlessly successful operations.

Terms related to API

About Container xChange

Container xChange simplifies the logistics of global trade. We connect all logistics companies through our neutral online infrastructure that connects all logistics companies. Whether you’re in the business of leasing or trading equipment or want to be on top of all container movements, Container xChange supports simplifying and automating those processes. Want to learn more about leasing at xChange? Click here for more information. Interested in trading? Learn more here.