The pilot website has demonstrated proof of concept and is drawing praise from the tech community.

The website empowers companies to track down international shipping containers that are arriving in Iowa full of goods and leaving empty. Once they locate a container arriving near them, website users can contact ocean carriers and negotiate lower shipping rates using containers that would otherwise leave empty.

International trade is critically important to Iowa’s economy. This project will help companies across Iowa export more efficiently and grow their businesses.

The concept for the Container Locator was hatched in the spring of 2014 through the Freight Roundtable, a forum organized by the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to discuss issues related to freight transportation among key stakeholders, including the Greater Des Moines Partnership and the International Traders of Iowa. 

The MPO contracted with CyBIZ Lab in the Ivy College of Business at Iowa State University to determine the feasibility of a container-tracking website and then to build it. The resulting website tracks relevant information about intermodal containers, including their origin, capacity, destination and shipping company. 

With this tool, Iowa companies can now lower their shipping costs, ocean carriers can increase revenue by filling containers that would otherwise be transported empty, and the end consumer stands to benefit from the overall lower cost of delivering goods. 

The tech community is taking notice. The website garnered the Des Moines Area MPO the prestigious and highly competitive 2018 award for “Best User of Technology” from the Technology Association of Iowa. Additionally, CyBIZ Lab’s contribution to the project was featured in one of the case studies that helped Iowa State win the “Talent Award” from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) 2017 Innovation & Economic Prosperity (IEP) University Awards, which recognizes innovative student learning initiatives.

After nearly a year of testing, we’ve learned we have a viable technology to fulfill a unique niche in the international movement of goods, not only in Iowa but more broadly in the Midwest and eventually the nation. We found strong interest among shippers and ocean carriers, who recognize the potential efficiency that this tool will offer to businesses at the state, regional and national levels.

Based on feedback during the testing phase, will undergo improvements in the coming months and re-launch later this year. The site remains free to use during the testing phase. Companies are invited to test out the site and send feedback to

Todd Ashby
is the executive director of the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. For more information about the Des Moines Area MPO, visit


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