Singapore-headquartered maritime logistics tech startupHub is working on a technology that will enable ships to connect with each other and share information. This will help optimise capacity, routes and procurement, thereby creating a “shared economy” in maritime logistics.
The shared data platform, which leverages IOT, Big Data and machine learning, can help ship operators plan their next steps. If information on capacity of ships, the routes they are taking, and their destination are shared, multiple ships need not take the same route at 3/4th their capacity. Ships can also share information related to weather conditions and sea state and other voyage specifics.
“This is the value of shared economy, which is functional in airline logistics and truck logistics. The same is now becoming a reality in maritime logistics,” says Joy Basu, Co-founder, Smart Ship Hub.
Connected economy for shipping
“Technology is in beta at this stage and we intend to go live in 2023. Ships will be able to share critical information that allows them to partner and leverage each other’s strengths. This will be an open platform wherein hundreds and, in future, thousands of vessels will be connected for their operations,” says Joy.
According to him, shared economy in maritime logistics exists in a “smaller fashion wherein a few Japanese ship owners have joined hands to create their own pool of vessels.”
Apart from enabling ship-to-ship connectivity using smart sensors in ships, the startup is also working on ship-to-shore and shore-to-ship connectivity. This will enable live tracking and monitoring of ships.
Enabling a shared economy in the maritime industry is what Smart Ship Hub is current working on. Its flagship product is an integrated digital SaaS platform that helps ship operators and logistics firms in ship maintenance, planning of ship routes, and remote management of fleet.
The company was set up in 2019 by Joy Basu and Captain Harminder to address the pain points of the maritime industry.
Challenges in maritime logistics
Globally, maritime logistics suffers from issues such as fragmented players, lack of coordination and transparency, and low technology penetration. Ship operators, charterers, ports, and supply agencies exist in silos with little or no integration between them. Cargo owners don’t have information regarding the ship’s voyage, which is largely driven by brokers and agents. With no information from the vessel, shore staff seldom know when the ship has a breakdown mid-sea or faces the wrath of bad weather, causing a delay in cargo arrival and monetary loss.
All these ultimately lead to cost leakages, delayed processes, higher cost of supplies, an expensive value chain, a poor supply chain, and inefficient ship management.
According to a report by UNCTAD, around 80% of global trade by volume and over 70% of global trade by value are carried out by sea and handled by ports worldwide. Given the importance of maritime trade in the global economy, the maritime logistics industry cannot afford inefficiencies and delays. This is where access to timely information is crucial.
Access to information
Smart Ship Hub’s digital platform gives ship owners, ship operators, and charter companies access to a host of information such as the vessel’s health, machinery condition, cargo condition, ETA assessment, and possible delays due to weather.
Access to information will help ship owners, operators, charterers, and insurance companies plan shipping routes and rerouting, optimise performance, and manage overall operations.
Joy says, “Brokers and agents need not drive the process and system, which a digital platform can now do and make it transparent.”
The digital platform also helps in managing ship maintenance, fuel needs, ETA, and the ship’s need for spare part change—through predictive diagnostics.
“All these go towards 3% to 15% savings in operational costs—the impact of which for a mid-sized ship owner could be in the range of $6 million,” says Joy.
Smart Ship Hub also aims to remove the need for physical visits for inspection or scheduled maintenance by enabling remote access for tracking and monitoring the fleet, managing surveys and audits, changing spare parts, and cargo handling.
Reports are automated, thus eliminating the need for port authorities to inspect the processes, says the company.
In case of breakdown or downtime, Smart Ship Hub provides video-based assistance from the shore, thus doing away with the need to fly in a specialist from some part of the world.
The pandemic has made shipping companies realise the value of remote management and digital technology. Before COVID, the acceptance and decision-making timeline—to adopt and implement digital tech—was about 5 months. Now it has come down to 30 days, says Joy.
“Inefficient and legacy workflows in ships and shore are gradually giving way to automated remote management,” he says.
Key performance indicators
The startup’s digital platform also predicts key performance metrics to monitor operational efficiency and achieve cost savings.
The key performance indicators (KPIs) include machinery’s health, condition of main engine, auxiliary engine, boiler and cranes, and remaining usable life of the machinery. These metrics enable decisions on maintenance timeline and procurement of spares. Other KPIs are low fuel consumption, accuracy of ETA, and lower expenses in monthly maintenance routine. These help organisations ensure there is no unscheduled breakdown or downtime in operations and the ship is always business ready.
According to Joy, these KPIs potentially lead to 11% savings with predictive algorithms.
Pilot run and thereafter
Smart Ship Hub ran its first pilot in 2018, with India’s largest private shipping company, Great Eastern Shipping, for ship management processes, with the help of business intelligence tools and native mobile apps.
The pilot helped the company realise the huge gap in the supply chain, often between the ship owning team and the ship management team. This is the gap that Smartship Hub hopes to address through its digital platform.
Thereafter, the team delivered a proof of concept for the Indian Navy at the Visakhapatnam dockyard for 55 warships.
The startup competes with players such as Zero North from West Europe and Alpha Ori from Singapore. It claims to be the only organisation that offers the advantage of ‘zero capex investment’ to clients. This means clients don’t have to pay anything to install the platform. They have to pay a monthly subscription fee once the platform is active and commissioned.
“This is affordable even for organisations with a fleet size as small as 10 vessels. Smaller organisations can get digitally upgraded for as low as $1500 a month for base services,” says Joy.
Growth so far
Smart Ship Hub’s India subsidiary is in Pune. The company has a team of 26 full-time members across India and Singapore and 14 field engineers for onboard automation and installation consultants across Rotterdam, Singapore, Dubai, China, North Americas and Japan.
The startup generated a revenue of $200K in 2020. It signed contracts worth $1.1 million in 2021 and $3.4 million in 2022.
Smart Ship Hub was started with an initial investment of $600K from the founders. In July 2022, it raised $2.5 million in a seed round to develop its ready-to-deploy digital platform for global maritime logistics. The funding round was led by Ideaspring Capital and StartupXseed Ventures.