BSM founded MariApps in 2015 to help it seek its digital journey. After less than five years it has has possibly become one of the most important companies in the whole group.
When Bernhard Schulte Ship Management started down its digitalisation journey it did something that none of the other third-party ship management firms did, it created its own dedicated technology company, it acquired some, and partnered closely with others.
Singapore-based MariApps was started by BSM in 2015. It now employs about 400 people and is not only an integral part of the Schulte Group, but has a growing array of external clients and projects.
But it does not end there. The Schulte Group, the parent company of Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement also has Innoport, an investment arm focused on the growing level of innovation coming from the start-up world. Last year it also acquired World Line Communications, in a sort of reverse acquisition given that BSM had previously sold World Link, its sat comms arm, in 2015. There is also a cyber security firm in the company’s portfolio too.
Then there is the close relationship the company has, largely through MariApps, with the Finnish firm Navidium, which is pushing IoT solutions into the maritime field.
The key element of all of this though is MariApps.
Sankar Ragavan is Chief Digital Officer of Schulte Group, and unsurprisingly he is also chief executive of MariApps.
The role that MariApps plays in BSM is perhaps surprising when one considers that that company was founded less than five years ago, and the group really started looking at its digital strategy only three years ago.
MariApps has been responsible for the company’s far more responsive ERP system called SmartPAL. It has spread across the BSM enterprise and is integral to the company says Ragavan.
“It has 30 modules from newbuilding to travel, crew agency, supply, maintenance, finance,” he says. But of the best digital initiatives for Ragavan was the company’s LiveFleet client facing solution.
“We eliminated paperwork. It is completely digitalised, we have a LiveFleet portal where owners look at any financial reports, any operational reports, where they give any approvals. It is all online. This has got some good feedback and we now have a mobile module,” says Ragavan.
A number of the solutions that MariApps has rolled out across BSM have been developed into mobile Apps, pointing back to the SmartPAL which allows fleet management teams to have permanent access to data.
The list of solutions BSM/MariApps has been rolling out and trialling goes on. The acquisition of a cyber security company means that a solution is currently being rolled out across the 400 plus vessels in the managed fleet – they are nearly halfway now according to Ragavan.
And the acquisition of World Link, to effectively bring its satellite communications business back in-house, well that is now helping with the company’s development of the digital twin concept, an idea where a vessel is digitally recreated with all the data coming from the vessel to allow for much more real time analysis.
“This data is being collected, and instead of waiting for the maintenance it is more dynamic preventative maintenance.”
But all this change is coming with new challenges. Ragavan points to the new skills that are needed inside a once traditional ship manager – code writers, data experts, security specialists.
“We have 20,000 seafarers that also need to be kept updated,” says Ragavan. And yes, there is a mobile App for them too.
“This portal gives them access to training, but also the capacity to say their availability for joining, what training they need, they can do expense claims on the phone and talk to the office”.
BSM’s digital journey is set to continue. The company has projects looking at drones, predictive analysis, IOT, advanced cyber solutions, wearable tech for crew, blockchain, and augmented reality for crew training.
But yes, many of BSM’s competitors are also examining these potential tools, but not many also have Innoport to allow them to invest in new technology companies allowing them to be part of the development right from its inception and give them a technology edge and find new business models.