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Does ship chartering market need a digital marketplace?

During last few years “Uber Of The Oceans” or “Maritime Market Disruption” issue being very actively discussed in shipping community. And I’m sure that you have heard about recent move of BHP Billiton and such start-ups, as Shipamax (recently raised $2.5mln round) or VesselBot (graduated from PortXL accelerator) and probably THEOFE. Last year, we have also seen shutdowns of Shipbroker.com and few more similar attempts. But the number of new ventures in the ShipTech space is steadily increasing.

Since our start in Autumn 2014, OpenSea.pro have got dozens of positive feedbacks and growing interest from professionals of chartering market. Thus, in August 2017 we have reached 2500 registered companies, and our most active month was October 2016, when we’ve got over 250 new registerations in just two weeks and over 300 actual positions per day. This was mainly related to my participation in FONASBA panel discussion over Shipbroker’s future. It is interesting that some part of the community still believe that such new ventures could be a threat for shipbrokers as their aim is to displace intermediaries. While at the same time, half of our users are shipbrokers and they are our most active segment.

But let’s talk about benefits of the marketplace model, as we designed it.

First and most important difference from the regular email circulations – is that you can instantly get all matching offers (ships or cargoes). While, at the same time, remaining inaccessible to idle curiosity and recirculation of your positions. Because initially, your contact details remain hidden, as well as ship’s names or charterer’s account.

The second benefit is that such approach lets place cargoes together with target freight. This way a Shipowner can choose the best offer with just a few clicks, without wasting time for additional emails and chats. At the same time, a Charterer can gain more interest in the cargo. And a Shipbrokers get the double benefit as they can represent both sides simultaneously.

Third, even if you haven’t found suitable business, we will notify those customers who could be potentially interested in your open position, according to their previous activity. And this means that you will only get target offers from us. Surely, there are even more benefits and you may learn more about them.

Now, let’s talk about technologies. Today, machine learning allows to improve search algorithms of suitable offers, to anticipate needs and make it seamlessly. Cloud data storage together with encryption lets get safe access to your valuable information from everywhere and any device. Big data makes possible aggregation of anonymised data and provision of absolutely new analytical reports, whether it is recommended freight rate for a particular cargo with particular route or the activity index of the port/region. It is certainly not all the possible digital advantages, which could be implemented in a ship chartering marketplace, but only those that are already working and ready to use. Even more interesting lies ahead. And of course, the conservatives should argue with powerful front objections. But I’m ready for open discussion and even cooperation. Because I believe that this model is really in demand and can give equal opportunities together with technological benefits for all participants. Finally, we plan to expand service capabilities to ultimately create cheap, more convenient and precise tool to work in the new information age. But it’s difficult and expensive work. While more people are using our service daily, far fewer are ready to pay upfront.
Source: Vasiliy Kotylevskiy, Ship chartering expert

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