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Why ship managers don’t collaborate on software development

AMG Logistics

Owners would love shipmanagers to share some of their software breakthroughs. Don’t hold your breath. The tech is often their USP.

What is stopping major managers from pooling their knowledge together to offer a standardised software for a suite of functions in order to benefit all clients?

It’s something many in shipping have clamoured for, but is unlikely to happen.

Bjorn Hojgaard, CEO of Anglo-Eastern, cites two main factors as to why this unified software offering is not realistic: competitiveness and the fact managers all have different opinions about what a software suite of functions should entail.

Shipping has been slower to undertake the digital transformation journey

Mingfa Liu, managing director of ship services at Singapore’s IMC Shipping, argues that in the highly competitive shipmanagement environment, the people involved at the ground level have similar competencies but it is the operating systems and software which differentiate them.

“Companies tend to guard their software and systems and depend on them to provide them that competitive edge required to gain and maintain business,” Liu says, a point of view picked up by Rajiv Singhal, the managing director of MTM Ship Management.

“What differentiates a manager in high quartiles is his or her shipmanagement software with its value-added and user-friendly features,” Singhal says.

Quite so, says Sachit Sahoonja, CEO and managing partner at Su-Nav. “For most of the managers their software is their USP. If that’s common, there is nothing left,” he says.

Off the peg?

Sean McCormack, the shipmanagement director at Northern Marine, points out that the needs of clientele in shipping are very diverse and attempting to create a standardised off the shelf software that is agile enough to meet all those needs would be a challenge.

“We prefer offering our clients a truly tailored solution that can only be achieved through intimate and detailed collaboration between client and service provider,” McCormack says.

There must be a distinction between digitalisation for the sake of it and systems that deliver tangible benefits

It is also a question of innovation – or the lack of it – within shipmanagement, something few are brave enough to tackle when interviewed by Splash.

Caroline Huot, senior vice president for shipmanagement at Delta Corp, puts her head above the parapet at this point, telling Splash: “Very seldom are managers bringing to the market in-house developments. As service providers and with the profession’s level of profitability, the development costs and the time to market are both difficult to bear.”

Kishore Rajvanshy, who has presided over the development of the award-winning Planning and Reporting Infrastructure for Ships (PARIS) platform during his many years in charge of Fleet Management, has his own thoughts on shipping and digital.

“Shipping has been slower to undertake the digital transformation journey and it doesn’t help that the sector itself is already highly fragmented, so there isn’t necessarily any one solution or approach that everyone can align with,” he says.

Inevitable collaboration

Looking ahead, Claes Eek Thorstensen, vice chairman at Thome Group, thinks that inevitable collaboration across the maritime supply chain is coming.

“We believe there will be close collaboration between equipment providers, service providers and regulatory bodies such as class societies and flag states,” Thorstensen says, going on to predict that data will be shared between owners and managers to ensure sufficient data to contribute to data analytics that leads to better performance of ships under management.

As technical solutions consolidate, and options to gain efficiency become clearer, then it is possible that some software and systems will become ubiquitous, predicts David Borcoski, the CEO of ASP Ship Management.

“However,” he says, “there must be a distinction between digitalisation for the sake of it and systems that deliver tangible benefits.”

What would be hugely beneficial to both owners and managers, argues Andrew Airey, who heads up Bangkok-based Highland Maritime, is to go deeper and standardise the vessel’s raw electronic data collection format and then require that data to be verified, stored and become a statutory part of the vessel asset, passing i tact with the vessel on any change of ownership or management until the vessel is scrapped.

“As long as we can access reliable historic raw vessel data then we can not only manage the vessel more efficiently with less risk, we can also still customise or differentiate our service offering to the client,” Airey says.

This is one of the articles from Splash’s Shipmanagement Market Report, a 72-page magazine published this month. Splash readers can access the full magazine for free by clicking here.


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