What is the one thing the maritime sector needs to do in order to improve efficiency?
The theme for this year’s World Maritime Day was ‘empowering women in the maritime community’ providing an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of gender equality within the sector. In celebration of the theme and ATPI Marine & Energy’s centenary year, the female workforce within the organisation was asked to highlight their experiences and amplify issues that they believe are important to the sector today. Amongst these responses, Marjan van Vilet, global account manager, ATPi Marine & Energy, highlighted how the industry’s approach to efficiency has changed over the years and why it continues to be a priority to the shipping sector. Here are her insights on how the shipping sector can be more efficient.
Achieving greater efficiency has always been a challenge for the maritime sector and likely always will be, but that doesn’t mean that significant step changes in improving the performance and productivity of shipping organisations can’t be made.
There has been a noticeable shift towards digital solutions in a bid to achieve greater efficiency in recent years. The biggest change that has happened in terms of efficiency is that more and more shipping companies are using crew management systems in order to perform crew changes. However, with every change comes a new challenge, and now that things are digital, the management of data can be a problem. Ensuring that this is accessible and shared in the right format is essential to maintain efficiency. There has also been an increase in the number of clients who have developed their own app for their seafarers, allowing them to easily check their itineraries. Some of these apps allow crew to upload their certificates, visas and traveller profiles, which further helps to increase the efficiency of travel booking processes.
Of course, the most important consideration when discussing efficiency is always going to be cost. Maritime organisations are motivated to improve the efficiency of their processes in order to save money and this is understandable, particularly when it comes to travel processes as crew travel is a significant spend for most shipping companies. However, improving efficiency is also a very effective way of reducing human error and mistakes, as an efficient process is a more reliable process.
Processes that are most likely to become inefficient over time are those that are very repetitive or those that involve a lot of data going back and forth – whether that’s between systems or individuals. It’s in these types of processes that it’s common to find people waiting on each other, which slows things down and creates further inefficiency and so it’s vital that teams maintain a consistent flow of communication in order to keep things moving – quite literally when it comes to arranging crew travel.
Data practices can also contribute to inefficiency. Checking that everyone who needs access to certain data actually has it, is paramount when trying to avoid a bottleneck of work and administration. For example, when it comes to booking travel, if there are employees within the booking process who can’t gain access to traveller information then the whole booking process can grind to a halt. By having an ISO certification as verification of the efficacy of their processes and ensuring that they perform reviews annually helps to avoid problems accumulating over time.
It’s my belief that processes which span across multiple teams or departments are at most risk of becoming inefficient. Crew rotations are a good example of a process that is at high risk of becoming inefficient, as each rotation involves various people working on it, usually a mix of internal and external. Once you add dealing with port agents into this there is the potential for a lot of back and forth communication that can slow down completing the rotation or increase the likelihood of the rotation not going to plan. For example, when crew arrive at a location there is often a need for ground transportation, but this will only happen if there has been communication between the shipping organisation, crew managers, port agents and the ground transportation supplier. As you can see, it can be quite convoluted.
The key to achieving efficiency within the maritime sector is the will to change. Reviewing your internal processes is not easy to do and can take a lot of time, so organisations really need to commit to the project if they want to be successful. There may be come challenges along the way, but ensuring your organisation is open to change is a vital first step.
Source: Marjan van Vilet, global account manager, ATPI Marine & Energy, Article arranged exclusively for Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide (www.hellenicshippingnews.com)