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A guide to ShipTech in bulk shipping

A guide for anyone who wants to learn more about the application of technology in bulk shipping

Chapter 1: An overview of bulk shipping technology

Technology is emerging at an increasingly rapid pace in the bulk shipping industry. Whilst some technology firms have died a widely-published and painful death, others have cemented themselves as value-adding tools that are used widely among the shipping community.

Here’s our 10 most-important shipping technology categories:

1. Ocean routing

There are two main types of ocean routing companies:

  • Nautical charting - these companies are masters at understanding the ever-changing ocean floors and build software to help Captains navigate the seas
  • Distance calculators - typically these companies build added value tools such as distance tables or calculators on-top of nautical charts to help charterers and owners compute the length of shipping journeys

2. Ship tracking

Ship tracking companies include:

  • AIS satellite data providers - these companies own the physical satellites in space that are dedicated to tracking ship radio signals

  • AIS resellers + costal providers - license satellite data from the satellite companies and bundle it with their own costal radio data to provide a full coverage of data to charterers, owners and brokers. Resellers often try to differentiate themselves on the quality of cleaning done on the raw AIS data.

  • AIS visualisation - in addition to the pure sale of AIS data feeds, these providers visualise the ocean fleet and provide searchable tools for charterers, owners and brokers

  • Port calls - a number of companies have used the intelligence from AIS, combined with other sources to predict the port calls of bulk vessels - useful for port agencies managing traffic inflow as well as eager analysts assessing supply and demand in any given area

3. Ship data

Another group of data providers - which can be roughly grouped into three areas:

  • Vessel Particulars - data on fixed attributes of ships such as size, consumption, equipment on deck (gears, grabs, etc)
  • Ownership - information on the ownership and management of a ship
  • Compliance and risk data - providers offer compliance checks on owners, managment and ship voyage history as well as performance-related risk ratings of vessels.

4. Ship management

Software that helps with the technical management of the vessels, such as cleaning procedures or crewing.

5. Brokerage

A hotly debated and growing number of ‘online’ brokerages - most of which aim to to cut out the physical broker and ask charterers & shipowners to mark their open positions on an online marketplace.

6. Tools for brokers

Rather than competing with the brokers, these tools aim to help brokers become more efficient. Includes email parsing and cargo & ship matching software.

7. ERP systems

The ultimate enterprise software, these sprawling systems help charterers and owners manage various parts of their ship operations. They typically are desktop-based and have various add-on modules for managing different parts of the process.

8. Costs & pricing

Many of these tools could also be classified as ‘tools for brokers’ - however they tend to have much wider appeal to both charterers and owners. These include tools which help with the pricing of inputs such as bunker fuels as well as voyage calculators which compute the total costs of a voyage.

9. Contract negotiation & management

Software to simplify the charter-party process - bringing the editing process online to avoid the multiple emails going back and forth in a CP negotiation, enabling an clearer audit trail as well a safe place to store documents.

10. Post-fixture

This group of software helps parties manage all the operational pieces that have to be dealt with after the commercial negotiation has been finalised - from a online bill of lading to demurrage claims.

Pre-voyage management with Shipamax

Here at Shipamax, our in-house team of developers and data scientists are focused on making Pre-Voyage Management for the 21st century. We’ll soon be accepting beta customers for Shipamax Pro. If you’re excited about the use of technology in shipping - sign up for Shipamax Free and we will reach out to understand how we can work together.

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