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The software landscape for dry bulk shipping

An overview of the types and providers of software in dry bulk shipping

Chapter 1: An overview of bulk shipping software

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

Here’s our 10 most important shipping software categories:

1. Ocean routing

There are two main types of ocean routing companies:

  • Nautical charting - these companies are masters at understanding the everchanging ocean floors and build shipping 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 + coastal providers - license satellite data from the satellite companies and bundle it with their own coastal 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 which is 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, management and ship voyage history as well as performance-related risk ratings of vessels.

4. Online brokerage

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

5. Tools for brokers

Rather than competing with brokers, these solutions – for example a tonnage search tool – aim to help brokers become more efficient.

6. ERP systems

Often not marketed as ‘ERP’ within the industry, this category of software helps parties manage all the operational elements that must be dealt with after the commercial negotiation has been finalised. Typically, these ERP systems are desktop-based and have various add-on modules for managing different parts of the process. They are a core ‘system of record’ for operators and brokers.

For ship operators this is usually in the form of a voyage management system which helps with tasks from risk management calculations to tracking noon reports. Some systems are more complex than others – sprawling into every nook of the operations and accounting process.

For brokers – this is a post fixture management system that helps with tracking fixtures, managing operational tasks and sometimes invoicing.

7. 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.

8. 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 charter party negotiation, enabling a clearer audit trail as well a safe place to store documents.

9. Email clients

As an electronic gateway to the outside world, email is the most fundamental system for any shipping company. Email clients include non-industry specific favourites such as Outlook as well as many shipping-specific programs. In addition to the basic email functionality, shipping focused software will often have extra bells and whistles such as voyage calculators and fixture databases.

10. Systems of intelligence

Systems of intelligence are a new type of software for the bulk shipping industry. A system of intelligence provides a layer on top of your existing tools to help commercial teams surface information from multiple systems as quickly as possible.

A new intelligent layer from Shipamax

Here at Shipamax, we’ve created an intelligent layer that integrates with your existing tools and services to help quickly surface the information you need prefixture. Shipamax’s cloud-based platform is used by teams to work together and help keep track of the end-to-end process before it gets handed into your ERP.

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