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Technology is a Major Driving Force in Shipping and is Already Changing the Maritime Landscape

Working from home during lockdown has awaken many shipping company executives, even the more traditional ones, into recognizing the benefits that technology can bring to the table. Shipping software companies like Hanseaticsoft have been preaching about this for years and have managed to persuade a number of maritime executives about the benefits of digitalization of a number of processes. The company’s CEO, Mr. Alexander Buchmann, in an exclusive interview with Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide (www.hellenicshippingnews.com), offers some valuable insight on how a ship owner can benefit from investing in new technologies.

Hanseaticsoft has established itself as an important maritime software company, now in its 11th year of operations. Which would you say have been the main landmarks of your company’s course so far?

Looking back on the last years, there are a couple of landmarks that are worth mentioning. First of all, the official release of our solution Cloud Fleet Manager in 2012. In the same year during SMM we presented our product to a broader audience for the first time and that’s when things really started to accelerate. We were able to build a strong client base, got our first international customer, hired more employees, and moved to bigger premises in Hamburg in 2014. In the following years, we experienced a continuous growth which lead to Lloyd’s Register investing in the company in 2017. Thanks to this we were able to strengthen our global presence and shortly afterwards opened two new side offices.

Which were the biggest initiatives and developments for Hanseaticsoft over the course of 2019?

One of our major initiatives last year was to enter the Asian market. We experienced a huge demand for innovative solutions there and are very happy that we were able to attract several new clients within a few months. Next to this, we are continuously enhancing and updating the modules of our system with two major additions that stood out in 2019: For one thing, we made major changes to our crewing solution Cloud Crewing, including huge expansions regarding functionality. This way, making our module not only a vital tool for ship managers but for major crew managers as well.

In addition to this, we released a new mobile app last year, CFM Go, as a companion to our system Cloud Fleet Manager. CFM Go makes all relevant management data available to users of the system even on the move. Whether disturbances, crew changes, expiring certificates, off hires, claims, upcoming dockings, or bunkers that have to be confirmed – users won’t miss any important event.

Do you have any plans regarding your growth in the Greek market?

In response to customer demand, we will further increase our activity in Europe with a particular focus on Greece. We are currently planning to put a dedicated sales team together for the Greek market to showcase our system and the many benefits cloud-technology has to offer for the maritime industry.
We are already looking forward to being in Greece for Posidonia, which will hopefully take place as planned in October, to meet with interested shipping and ship management companies.

Will those be hampered by COVID-19?

The situation is challenging, and the travel restrictions in force make it currently impossible to meet potential clients on site for live demonstrations of our system. Fortunately, we have always been able to simply offer an online demonstration of our system and we can already see an immense increase in request for these. COVID-19 will definitely have an impact on how we interact with potential clients but not on our activity overall. So, for any company that was planning to schedule an on-site demonstration, just visit our website to set up your remote session.

Where do you see the most business for Hanseaticsoft coming from in the future? Which will be the “killer” services of tomorrow?

Caused by COVID-19, we will most likely see an immense increase in people working more flexible and especially remotely. Shifting the overall focus away from ever-growing central office spaces to smaller ones that are spread globally. We can already see this in our own company, as we are currently considering putting more emphasis on having people work remotely on a regular basis instead of expanding our office space.

The way we work in general will be changing. The use of digital solutions will increase, enabling better communication, streamlining of processes and improved collaboration – regardless of where employees are working from. Especially the quality of teams will benefit from this. Without the need to be at the same location, team leaders can focus on the skills of their employees instead of being restricted to potential candidates in their proximity. To us, this development does not mean a specific shift of where we expect business to come from but a general increase overall.

In terms of clients, which countries/shipowners appear to be more open to using your products so far?
During the last years there has been an ongoing trend globally in the maritime industry to adopt new technologies, so it is hard to narrow it down to specific regions. Especially with the current pandemic, companies in general are more open minded towards digitalising processes.

We have been traveling Asia in the last year and we saw a huge interest in innovative technology and their adoption, which sets them apart from some European regions. We were able to win 8 new clients from Asia out of our total 19 new clients that we got last year and that is a noticeable number, considering that we have been addressing the region for only a year now. But as I just mentioned, the general reluctance to change that we have experienced during the first couple of years when we entered the market, has noticeably decreased.
One thing that is still relevant though, is the size of a company. We have experienced, that especially small to mid-sized shipping or ship management companies are very open-minded regarding innovation and the adoption of our system. This is, on the one hand caused by the factor, that smaller companies usually are more recently founded, this way not bound to some kind of “traditional” way of handling processes and also more used to e.g. handling tasks with their smartphone or are already using cloud-based services in their daily life. On the other hand, budgets are not as high, so companies are always looking for ways to increase efficiency and to cut costs. Since our Cloud Fleet Manager is designed to enable a lean management, increase efficiency, and is offered as a SaaS solution with a monthly fee based on the number of managed vessels, this is a perfect match.

How keen are Greek owners to adopting new technology? How can Hanseaticsoft help them improve their operations and save them money?

Our experiences during the last years have shown us that the digital revolution is on its way and the shipping industry has realised this by including new ways of handling their daily processes. Even though Greek shipping companies have always been traditional, we experienced that they are still open-minded towards new trends, and we are certain that they will recognise the great potential that modern software solutions can offer them, if they haven’t already done so.

What we are offering is quite simple. Modernisation and digitalisation of processes, reliable data that is always up to date and centrally available for all users regardless of location, increase in efficiency and this way, a general cutback on costs.

Those who adapt their processes to new conditions with digitalisation of their businesses and fleets will stay in the game and ahead of competition and we want to assist them with exactly that.

Which is your company’s strategic advantage over other competing software companies or even products/services offered in this domain by larger corporations in the maritime business?

The most outstanding feature of our system Cloud Fleet Manager is that it is a native cloud solution that is completely web-based and has been developed this way right from the start. This means, the only things required to start working are an internet connection and a browser. There is no need to invest in IT staff or hardware to keep the system up and running. In the current situation this is especially vital since users are not bound to be at a specific place to work but can simply continue their tasks even from home. In addition, by delivering the system as SaaS, users do not have to worry about licensing or hidden fees e.g. for maintenance. Customers simply pay for the modules they want to use based on the number of ships they are managing – that’s it.
Even though we see a trend from competing companies to also shift their software to the cloud, most of them are not providing true cloud solutions. Often, they are simply offering remotely hosted sessions of their legacy systems which still need to be deployed on-premises.
We have an extensive knowledge regarding cloud-technology and the maritime industry which we have incorporated into our product. Our system works in the browser without any installation, is platform independent and complemented by mobile apps to enable true untethered mobility. Today, we are offering more than 30 applications for all different tasks that need to be handled in a shipping company.

Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

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