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Leveraging on digitalisation

Integrated software solutions and digitalisation are the way forward for the shipping industry.

Through the collection and analysis of data generated and gathered from day-to-day operations, ship managers are able to take actions to enhance operational efficacy and efficiency and shipping companies can gain a better understanding of how their valuable assets are performing.

Data management, and ‘big data’ in particular, has been described as the future by many in the industry but coming to terms with what are relatively new ideas in shipping is challenging.

This is where the software developers at MariApps Marine Solutions, part of the Schulte Group, have been busy continuing to develop solutions that make an impact. While MariApps is relatively new in the field, its strong partnership with Bernhard Schulte (BS) and Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) is helping to attract major industry names to the Company’s growing customer base.

MariApps Chief Executive Officer, Sankar Ragavan, says, “We are getting good traction in the market because of our strong connection to ship managers and ship owners. Many ship management companies find our product attractive because it has been built and developed based on direct feedback from functional experts.”

As a result, MariApps is helping the shipping industry to make sense of big data through effective data analytics.

“Big data involves collecting all the available information within a company. What is key is to decide on what to do with all this data. For example, a company can review its insurance, crew, health and safety data over a five-year period and through the application of relevant analytics can discover behavioural patterns. The company would then be able to see the circumstances behind incidents occurring on board and the personnel involved at the time.”

Singapore-based MariApps now serves BSM and twelve third-party customers from offices in Cyprus, Germany and India.

The customer base includes CMA Ships, part of the Marseille-based container carrier group CMA CGM, who recently signed a contract to implement MariApps’ flagship PAL e3 solution across its offices and on more than 170 vessels.

During the signing ceremony, Ludovic Gerard, Executive Vice President of CMA Ships, said, “CMA Ships is expecting a smooth implementation so that we can quickly move to a single, integrated solution across the organisation.”

PAL e3, built with the latest Microsoft technology, is a fully web-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software suite developed for the shipping industry. It offers a single solution for ship managers and ship owners, enabling them to communicate with and track their vessels, review documents, train employees and remain fully updated on the status of survey reports.

Sankar, who has more than 20 years experience in the IT industry, explains, “Before maritime enterprise resource planning, companies used different solutions sourced from different vendors for different functionalities. This resulted in many cases in negative productivity gains because of the need to deal with different systems and different suppliers.

“Users were unable to share data between these functionalities because different data formats were stored in different places. An effective ERP system not only brings all of the available data together, but also provides full transparency.”

Users benefit from having a web-based system available at their fingertips which enables critical vessel-related information to be fully accessed at anytime, anywhere via the web or a mobile device.

The PAL e3 solution covers all areas of ship operations and crew management. It offers ship owners and ship managers complete access to their vessel, crew, financial and Planned Maintenance System (PMS) data together with operational reports and ‘drill-down’ capabilities. Its user-friendly, customisable dashboards and alerts-driven approach facilitates data-driven decision making.

“We are one of the few companies that customise solutions for our clients, whether they are a small or large ship manager,” adds Sankar.

Whilst a web-based system can open the door to a potential cyberattack, having a robust security strategy will minimise such a threat.

One strategy MariApps employs in this respect is to work only with the most reputable partners to act as the cloud host. In addition, proactive security policies that identify clearly what should, and should not be done, in the office are strictly enforced.

“We have security in place to block access at the entry level. We also have security consultants working with our partners, such as Microsoft, to enhance the security of our system. Our officers are well-trained to ensure that they are aware of the practices that could introduce viruses to the system, and make it prone to hacks,” says Sankar.

MariApps is continuing to focus development efforts on further enhancing its products for the benefit of both current and future customers.

One aspect of the work being undertaken is to incorporatethe ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) into the PAL ERP system.

The IoT involves different equipment and systems on board a ship communicating and sharing data with each other. An example of this interaction would be a vessel owner who has several vessels calling at the same port within a week. Each piece of intelligent equipment on board the first ship to call at the port would gather an extensive array of data about sailing conditions, berthing conditions, etc. and would communicate this information back to the intelligent equipment installed on the various vessels calling at the same port that week.

The IoT allows technologies to “talk to each other” and work hand-in-hand to improve operational efficiency.

Sankar emphasises the need to continually improve. “No solution is ever completely finished and we will continue to upgrade our ERP solutions based on the feedback from our customers and support provided by the Schulte Group.”

This article was published in BSM Highlights | Issue 3, 2017.