Pacific Maritime Magazine - Marine Business for the Operations Sector

Maritime Software 2019


December 1, 2019

SSI's ShipConstructor software will offer on a centralized digital platform that will allow the whole organization of shipbuilders to access all information and communicate through every phase. Artwork courtesy of SSI.

Software companies continue to innovate using the latest digital technologies to improve shore-side and vessel operations, compliance and safety across the industry.

Maritime tech start-up Voyager aims to provide the global bulk commodity shipping market a unified and centralized data eco-system for handling all voyage and related workflows. The SaaS solution works to drastically reduce the amount of low-value, low-complexity tasks routinely associated with bulk shipping by giving customers a robust, web-based shared environment to manage everything.

The Texas-based organization recently completed a $1.5 seed funding round co-led by ATX Venture Partners, Blue Bear Capital, GreenHawk Capital, and Phaze Ventures. Voyager's new capital will be used to expand the SaaS network's offerings, further acquire and expand its customer base, and grow its engineering, development, marketing and sales teams.

"We're looking to help the industry evolve away from a very traditional way of doing business in the digital age," says Matthew Costello, cofounder and CEO. "When we thought about Voyager as a product, we went back to fundamentals and asked ourselves what is a voyage? It's a project. It has a clear beginning. It has a clear end."

Today the coordination of even a single shipment involves up to 10 companies working across multiple times zones, using hundreds of documents and generating over 4,000 emails, according to Costello, who visualizes a not-so-distant future where these communications will be email-free.

Voyager's digital platform was initially developed in mid-2018. Several companies from across the US and Asia are using it, with shippers in the European and Latin American markets expected to come onboard soon.

Customers have complimented Costello on Voyager's user-friendly interfaces. Onboarding companies can be done within two days, with minimal training. Once a user signs on, they are immediately given access to APIs that integrate Voyager's communications layer with a customer's existing ERP system. Customers can also access various data that can be strategically analyzed and optimized, depending on requirements.

Voyager helps with benchmarking and performance tracking, changes in vessel schedules, service-level agreement compliance, timely responses on supply chain services, and more. Every piece of data and information that is shared on the platform creates different types of logs and meta data which can then be tracked. Voyager tracks and monitors the completion of tasks across the voyage. "People get reminders and alerts if they've forgotten something or are behind in completing a task" says Costello. "It's almost like voyage operations on auto-pilot."

While an ERP or Oracle system can provide the basic information about a voyage, Costello says the story of what happened during the voyage is stuck in spreadsheets and emails. Now there is just one place customers need to go to find the information they need or conduct a full voyage post-mortem.

Voyager is a cloud-based web application and is tablet and phone-enabled so that all parties can use it on most mobile devices. At present, Voyager is primarily optimized for desktop and laptop computers. Future releases on the platform will include both predictive and prescriptive analytics. One major benefit for companies using the system is that they are able to give access to all of their vendors and suppliers for free.

When asked about future of marine industry software, Costello imparts, "There are two major trends in enterprise software that I think are going to have the biggest impact on maritime. The first is that companies will move away from email to app-based communication to manage voyages. This experience will extend to the entire voyage workflow. The second is that data and analytics will be in the hands of everyone in the company and no longer resigned to spreadsheets of analysts."

Improving safety and driving paperless workflows is the main push that software company MarineCFO aims to continue bringing to the maritime industry. And with the advent of new technologies that continue to push the boundaries of current systems, the company is looking to make data even more smart and actionable than before; the majority of which can be accomplished without human intervention.

In business since 1992, MarineCFO already offers a robust suite of software products such as Vessel365, Endurance, mobile applications, and SENSE to help vessel owners and operators handle everything from maintenance and crewing to supply chain management, cyber security and Subchapter M compliance requirements and more. Now it's focusing on increasing the on-vessel components and upgrading the capabilities of its automated workflows.

Manual data entry is a thing of the past for most jobs. "We spent years working on the capturing of data, letting the end-user describe the elements they need, scheduling that, and reliably replicating that information to and from the boat," says founder and Chief Software Architect Dean Shoultz. "Now we automatically light it up for users and make better use of it without human intervention and the potential for human mistakes."

Shoultz points out that software isn't just about gathering data, organizing and disseminating it but using it so companies can make intelligent decisions and get the information they need in real time. To that end, the MarineCFO team is using AI (artificial intelligence) to auto-generate many on-vessel tasks, which can be automatically distributed to shore-side personnel, as well as integrating machine learning for predictive and analytical purposes. For example, an inland barge company can pickup 10 barges at a facility, and when they finally arrive at their destination, the system can automatically send out an EDI notification to the appropriate individuals and organizations and also auto-generate invoices.

In another example, regarding route optimization, the software is able to bring together information from a variety of sources such as weather forecasts, tidal and sediment movement mapping from multiple entities such as the Army Corps of Engineers and the US Coast Guard. Vessel operators can use the data to make route changes as needed, particularly in real time. For instance, if there is a new underwater obstruction in the area where a vessel transits, a vessel-specific alert will be sent to the crew to warn them ahead of time, reducing situational risk.

"The next generation of software asks the question how do we put this data to use and make it smart?" says Shoultz. "Machine learning in and of itself is nothing. We're corralling the technologies and bringing them to bear to help reduce costs and improve safety."

SSI's ShipConstructor software probably doesn't need an introduction since the company has been a hallmark of innovation in integrating digital technologies that allow engineers to work seamlessly during all phases of vessel construction. The company has always been focused on using the best available off-the-shelf technologies and making them better through its own improvements.

The future of ship design will definitely be different as SSI is developing a specific centralized digital platform – based on what's known as a Digital Twin – that will allow the whole organization of shipbuilders to access all information and communicate through every phase.

Here's how it works. From the design stage, and throughout a ship's construction and operation, every 'thing' that is to become part of a ship, from the raw materials to the hull form to equipment, has information attached to it (dimensions, properties, costs, etc.) and starts out life as a digital asset. The combination of all that digital information, captured throughout the lifecycle, is the Digital Twin.

The promise of the Digital Twin is an enormous undertaking, and it's still in its infancy. The amount of "sub-assets" (engines, steel, values, pumps, propulsion, scrubbers, etc.) in a modern ship are in the 10s or 100s of thousands. "There will be no single Digital Twin Platform, but rather a network of connected Digital Twin Platforms that together will define our true holistic Digital Twin," says SSI's co-CEO Denis Morais.

There will be several "digital twin" platforms (nodes) that each will perform several, if not all, of the functions required for that specific asset. The holistic Digital Ship (Twin) of the entire ship will be a connected collection of these platforms that work together to represent the whole ship. "From an end user perspective, there will be a unified user experience where information from various systems will be pulled together for your task," he explains.

According to SSI's Greg Goulanian, in an ideal world, the physical ship would always be updated and built in lock-step with the Digital Twin. "Focusing on having information within the engineering department is not enough," he says. "Everyone has to be able to work with that information and see it in the format and the way they need to make decisions and act on it."

What SSI is doing now is expanding on its ability to connect with other platforms and translate information into usable formats. "We're doing this by developing a central product lifecycle management platform where information from that Digital twin can be searched, configured, and managed through time," he says.

Spring, Texas-headquartered ABS Nautical Systems has expanded its range of fleet management software products to include mobile applications that support day-to-day shipping operations and help shipowners and operators meet new environmental regulations.

New regulations and operating requirements are placing more pressure on shipowners and their crews to maintain compliance documentation and improve their vessel performance, with environmental efficiency and emissions control becoming a global imperative.

In the next year, shipowners plying US waters will face compliance challenges from multiple regulations such as Subchapter M and EPA Tier 4 emission controls, in addition to global maritime initiatives aimed at boosting sustainability and lowering the carbon footprint of the international fleet. Data capture and asset management programs to map best practices will be mission-critical to meet those demands.

Crew life on a vessel is busy, with a range of hazards affecting job safety processes. Having the right software tools that are user-friendly-and increasingly mobile-is important to crews working aboard ships to address workload and maintenance issues. Another growing concern is the need for quality data to support compliance and management decisions.

To support easy data entry onboard, and designed specifically for the workboat sector, the ABS NS Workboat app enables Subchapter M compliance from day one. It is optimized for a tablet and available on a smartphone. No software is required to be installed on board. Using simple, intuitive screens, crews can record their daily activities at the point of work.

The Workboat app unifies task lists that direct crew activity based on office requirements and supports work order completions, checklist-based inspections, onboard meetings and drills, audits, and document delivery. The new Job Safety Analysis/Job Hazard Analysis mobile app also allows crews to document maintenance, safety and inspections activities, report hazardous conditions and equipment failures, and enforce safeguards before conducting tasks on board.

Nautical Systems software gives crew and staff a simple and familiar interface that is responsive to their needs in real time. The addition of mobile capabilities facilitates faster, more accurate ship and shore collaboration for better quality data.

By connecting the Internet of things (IoT) with an interface to access shipboard automation data, owners can tap into real-time performance analysis and in-depth visibility of vessel operations. This also allows for better reporting of key performance indicators to improve safety, lower risk and improve compliance management.

Maritime tech start-up Voyager offers a unified and centralized data ecosystem to handle benchmarking and performance tracking, changes in vessel schedules and service-level agreement compliance. Artwork courtesy of Voyager.

Underpinning these updates is an understanding of the growing concerns and needs of real-world mariners. Nautical Systems has developed and evolved its software suite over 20 years, and the products reflect a deep history in the maritime sector, particularly to address compliance with international regulatory bodies, international standards, flag states and port states.

"Fleet management software is essential for comprehensive asset reliability and performance management," says John Hathaway, Product Management Director. "We provide the user with data-analytics tools to track and quickly establish benchmarks for meeting today's challenges."

A properly configured fleet management system provides better visibility of KPIs and trends and enables data analytics for improved reliability and management decision making, notes Hathaway. "Wherever a company may be on their digital journey, a comprehensive fleet management system improves current processes."


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