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Startup Profile 2020: Intelligent Cargo Systems

Maritime players could well gain from CargoMate, a platform developed by Intelligent Cargo Systems (ICS) with the aim of reducing fuel consumption while optimising port calls and improving fleet efficiency.

Comprised of two components, the CargoMate platform from UK-based ICS employs a special mobile device for use onboard a ship as well as a web platform for stakeholders to monitor operations remotely. “The crew use the CargoMate mobile device to record port events, such as the loading and discharging of cargo, opening of hatch covers and completion of lashing,” explains CEO and co-founder Chris Jones.

“It is the same work as they currently do during cargo operations but with a paper clipboard replaced with our mobile software,” he explains. “Crew don’t need training or certification to use the software and the mobile device doesn’t require any integration with the ship’s systems. It is a completely standalone device that we can send to any ship in any port and they can use it immediately.”

Chris Jones

“The events recorded by crew are transmitted to our platform, where the data is validated and processed,” Jones continues. “Because each event is a snapshot of the progress of the port call, we can determine the productivity of the terminal and use it to forecast the cargo operations’ completion time.”

“Stakeholders can see the data snapshots for a ship on the web platform, enabling them to see at-a-glance whether their ship can complete cargo operations early, on-schedule or delayed,” he says, adding that the platform can also send out automatic email notifications to users at fixed time-intervals (for example, six hours before forecasted completion time) “to ensure all stakeholders are synchronised to minimise any berth idle time prior to departure”. Then, once the vessel has sailed, CargoMate will automatically produce productivity reports for the ship operator, allowing them improve the performance of their forthcoming port calls.

“The biggest impact is for shoreside managers, who are able to proactively and flexibly manage the schedules of their vessels,” Jones states. “The CargoMate system has enabled ships to sail from port early on multiple occasions, reducing fuel consumption and environmental emissions on their voyage. This is a simple process change available to all vessels and a step-change in improving the efficiency of the current fleet whilst decarbonising the industry.”

“We’re ensuring the value goes throughout a shipping company, right down to their customers,” he states, noting that last year ICS also introduced special cargo monitoring capabilities with enhanced tracking of high-value and/or sensitive cargoes, such as hazmats covered by the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code, out-of-gauge (OOG) loads, reefer and breakbulk. “We even automatically notify the carrier when containers are cancelled or rolled, enabling them to react and rebook the cargo on other vessels instantly,” he reveals.

Ultimately, CargoMate enables “seafarers to work smarter not harder”, Jones says. “For IMDG cargo, we show the placard, UN number and cargo types to ensure they are safely loaded in the correct position,” he continues. “Crew can track the progress of tasks, such as checking twistlocks and lashing, reducing the number of rounds they need to carry out. We work closely with our crews to ensure that we can reduce their port workload to the minimum possible.”

And so far, the response from the sector has been positive, with Jones reporting that, among other things, ICS is currently “working with a major carrier and [has] carried out over 350 port calls” since launching CargoMate Version 2 this past June.

“We have three main differentiators,” he says, explaining that the first concerns the fact that the data used by the system comes directly from the ship. “This is significant as our competitors use third-party or historical data to approximate berth time. Our system uses granular data collected on location, so variation in port productivity and stowage can be communicated to interested parties immediately and accurately.”

Secondly, because CargoMate uses the ship as the data collection point, “the system works in every port that the ship visits”. Again, this, he asserts, makes the platform stand out from rival systems, which “often have to have terminal or port community system integration”. This means that carriers may well “have to sign-up to multiple platforms for port call visibility”, whereas with the ICS offering they “can view all their CargoMate-equipped vessels on one platform regardless of their port location”.

Thirdly, CargoSmart’s data is neutral. “As it’s collected by the carriers own vessels, they are able to compare the observed performance of port calls from their ships against reported performance by the terminals,” he says. “This can be used to identify unreported gantry or equipment downtime and highlight discrepancies, especially with [key performance indicator (KPI)] metrics.”

With a number of “exciting developments” in the pipeline, ICS was co-founded in London in 2017 by Jones and CTO Dennis Sandmark through the Entrepreneur First programme. It’s core team also includes head of engineering Erik Bohlin and head of operations Emma Mark, both of whom “have deep software engineering and maritime product experience”.

More information, including a whitepaper on how CargoMate enabled a vessel to cut its fuel costs by more than $1,600 during a single short coastal voyage, can be found on the ICS website

About Author

Brian Dixon is a business and industry journalist with more than 20 years' experience writing about ports and logistics. A member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, he has covered stories on six continents. He divides his time between the UK and East Asia