Maintaining a happy crew
The old mariners’ saying: “a well-fed crew is a happy crew” is especially true for Tapan Kumar, General Manager of Seachef, BSM’s hospitality services business.
Based in BSM’s Mumbai offices, Tapan and his team run Seachef, which aims to please seafarers’ palates while providing them with a healthy and nutritious diet. In parallel, it streamlines the entire system of victuals purchasing to deliver better food and beverage value to BSM customers, a key component of vessel management costs.
Today Seachef caters to more than 300 vessels of various types operating around the world, with a 94% level of satisfaction gained for their service standards as indicated by a recent crew survey. Seachef follows an ISO 9001-2008 Quality Management System and the office is manned by highly trained hospitality professionals, chefs with versatile culinary skills and professionally trained catering staff who oversee the requisition, preparation, month end reports and stock control.
Tapan believes that Seachef both simplifies and adds real value to the way food is purchased, handled and consumed on board, resulting in a ‘win-win’ for both owners and crew.
A sophisticated software module enables automated budgeting, diet control, menu selection and ordering of ingredients, whilst at the same time the crew stays healthy and happy because there is no compromise on quality supplies.
“Our seafarers are busy and with the increasing regulatory requirements at sea which must be met, there is a lot of time spent on administrative activity. With Seachef’s support, there is less paper and accounting work for senior officers, which means more time can be devoted to other important work,” Tapan says. All accounting-related processes are managed directly by Seachef, including preparation and verification of reports for the owners and managers, as well as processing of supplier invoices.
Fixed prices negotiated for various products with suppliers at major ports help Seachef maintain its cost competitiveness and ability to work within agreed budgets. There are also no cash transactions made to vendors supplying the vessels, so ‘Cash to Master’ (CTM) delivery is reduced and commission on the transfer of funds saved.
In the past two years Seachef has grown 30% in terms of the number of vessels using its services and is gearing up for further growth, with Tapan being clear on the areas of focus. “We continue to emphasise the training of our catering personnel. With the new ERP software in place it’s important for us to have well trained staff on board using the software.” Another area being actively progressed is increasing the availability of local food products to satisfy the different nationalities on board. “At times our vessels carry a mix of eight nationalities and it is quite a challenge to keep those differing tastes happy,” he added.
Tapan is brimming with ideas for Seachef and is keen to share his future plans for the business. “We intend to expand our footprint within the offshore market. Even though that sector is depressed at present, we feel that we can bring efficiencies and improve the services offered.”
To support the achievement of the business growth objectives, a strategic partnership has recently been established with CF Louisiana Foods (CFLF) who will support Seachef’s commercial activities through their extensive knowledge of the ship supply sector, established reputation and network.
Tapan is confident that Seachef will continue to grow and become an even more important part of BSM’s suite of integrated maritime solutions. He said: “Over the years we have steadily come a long way, currently managing over 300 vessels with worldwide operations and more than 20 nationalities on board.
“We were one of the pioneers in the field of onboard catering and our aim remains the consistent delivery of enjoyable, nutritious meals for our crew – with the old saying certainly still true,” he concludes.