Sorting through the frothy shipping software vendor market

Software vendor Orbit MI releases easy to use independent vendor assessment tool for owners, even if it rules their own product out of a sale

Orbit MI, the NY-based digital tech spin-off from Sweden’s Stena Bulk, has built up a spreadsheet tool to help ship owners and managers wade through the myriad of digital vendors flooding the industry.


The freely available spreadsheet is not a database of software vendors, but a basic tool for shipowners and managers to select a handful of potential vendors and compare them.


According to UK-based shipping tech consultancy Thetius, the software market is set to be worth about $320bn by 2030, with Orbit MI saying the list of companies has now exceeded 600 names all seeking to attract capital and customers.


There is a lot of activity, and a lot of the vendors are offering data led solutions focused on reducing fuel bills and emissions, said Orbit MI Chief Marketing Officer David Levy at a journalist briefing to launch the tool, called SET, or Software Evaluation Toolkit.


While being with one of those 600 companies, Levy described the shipping software market as both frothy and getting messy; systems, tools and programmes have emerged and still are, many are still evolving, companies will come and go and inevitable mergers, acquisitions set to occur as the market evolves.


 “We have seen this in other industries, said Levy. “There is a lot of froth in the marketplace and a need to try and make sense of it. What happens when there is activity and a lot capital, companies do not know which vendors have a product, or just a power point. It gets confusing and bad choices get made”.


With a confusing software market Levy says one potential result is development then slows down as customers, in this case the limited number of shipowners and ship managers, get confused and opt for a more wait and see approach.


The spreadsheet tool that Orbit MI has developed allows a user to input a handful of vendor companies and rate them on a scale of one to four against certain criteria and questions. The result is a radar-style graph to help appraise and compare the companies inputted.


The spreadsheet looks complicated, but users can use as little or as much of it as they want to, pointed out Levy, and can even add their own criteria when selecting a potential vendor to use.


“Part of this is about what the right questions are that shipowners and managers should be asking” he said- “We get RFP (request for pitches) and RFI (information) and these questions in the tool are not Orbit Specific but reflect the questions we have got from clients”.


While Orbit MI could be one of the vendors a user could add to the list of companies to evaluate in the tool, that is certainly not a prerequisite added Levy. This is an industry tool, he insisted, it is not about selling Orbit MI products. “In fact, if we are not a suitable fit for a company, we would want to be ruled out sooner rather than later when both parties have wasted a lot of time.”


Levy said Orbit MI hopes the SET tool will evolve as users take it and adapt it, he even sees the potential for an independent consultancy to be able to use it in conjunction with a database in the future giving potential users additional value.

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