Mapping the Landscape of Maritime Tech Solutions
Evangelos Efstathiou is a guest contributor to SeaAhead. If you’d like to submit a guest post, click here.
Whether you’re a shipowner, charterer, shipbroker or port agent, success in the maritime industry requires you to know your business — and to have the tools to manage your business. Maritime technology has flourished over the past four decades, evolving from home-grown or custom software packages into enterprise software and cloud-based solutions built to handle the major business processes required to safely and profitably operate a vessel.
Today’s maritime technology solutions broadly fall under three major categories:
Maritime freight calculators and voyage management Enterprise Resource Planning (“ERP”) software to facilitate pre- and post-fixture commercial operations.
Ship management solutions to manage physical maritime assets, including planned maintenance, inventory procurement, crewing, quality and safety, and fuel performance.
Intelligence on trade flows, vessel movements, charter rates and asset values.
Skysail’s maritime landscape (graphic below) was first presented at the CMA conference in 2017. It was created out of a desire to share information and empower stakeholders in the maritime industry with better insight into the solutions available to help them manage their businesses better. Having worked for market-leading companies in each of the three categories over the past 15 years, I had come to learn about many of the solutions that customers I was visiting would use to run their business. As I traveled, I realized that all of the vendors in shipping face a high cost of customer acquisition. In many cases, customers aren’t aware that a particular company or solution exists, unless one of their counterparties recommends it or they learn about it from a colleague or friend. With such a globally distributed customer base, it quickly becomes costly, and challenging, for companies to travel to, or market to, target customers.
What has the landscape achieved since I first created it?
- Companies which I was unaware of have reached out to share information on their solutions, adding to the landscape.
- A recent college graduate used it during a job interview to show how the hiring company was positioned in the market, with implications for competitive pressure.
- Vendors on the landscape have shared feedback that the structure of the map has, in some cases, helped them frame where they fit within a client’s requirements.
- It has enabled us to detect an acceleration in private equity investment and M&A in maritime technology over the past 18 months.
- Since the first landscape was published, new subcategories have been added to each of the 3 categories as we drill deeper into the business applications used within organizations, including shared e-mail (commercial), vessel performance monitoring (technical), and satellite AIS services (analytics)
Where do I want to go with this infographic?
I hope to create a dialogue around the solutions available in the market and the investment needed to build a thriving ecosystem of technologies for running maritime companies better. By some accounts, our industry is fragmented with too many small players; by other accounts, there are “too few choices” available to the market to foster competition and innovation, creating opportunities for startups and new entrants who gain traction or support from industry players, whether it is the largest owners and commodity traders or the smaller privately owned fleets looking for low-cost, easy-to-use solutions.
I also want to elevate awareness in the industry of the range of solutions in use by shipowners, charterers, shipbrokers and port agents to manage their maritime activities, thereby also helping reduce cost of customer acquisition for tech companies in the space. And finally I want to provide a blueprint for startups and innovators to identify (a.) which areas they want to compete/differentiate/add value and (b.) opportunities they may spot either in or between areas that we show in the landscape.
Evangelos Efstathiou is the Chief Executive Officer of Skysail Advisors Ltd, a data capital and strategy advisory firm headquartered in Boston which combines knowledge and know-how of data science and software technologies to deliver innovative solutions to the maritime industry. Founded in 2016, Skysail joined SeaAhead’s coworking space in Boston earlier this year.