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Q&A: reimagining the future of maritime logistics solutions with P&O

By Ilaria Grasso Macola 07 Jan 2021 (Last Updated January 21st, 2021 16:09)

Maritime solutions provider P&O has launched a logistics platform which aims to optimise cargo delivery in the offshore industry. We spoke to the company to find out more about the technology which won the 2020 Seatrade Maritime Awards Logistic Solution of the Year award.

Q&A: reimagining the future of maritime logistics solutions with P&O
P&O head of information technology talks about the future of maritime logistics. Credit: P&O Maritime Logistics.

The 2020 Seatrade Maritime Awards Middle East, Indian Subcontinent and Africa took place between 14 and 16 December.

The ceremony, one of the world’s most famous awards scheme now in its 17th year, celebrates the achievements of an industry that was tested to the extreme over the last year because of Covid-19 and travel restrictions.

During the two-day function several awards – including Shipping Company of the Year, Pandemic Response and Sustainability awards – were assigned to companies and organisations such as Abu Dhabi Ports and the Suez Canal Authority.

Among the winners, maritime solutions provider P&O Maritime Logistics was awarded the Logistic Solution of the Year award for its offshore logistics platform, which aims at optimising cargo delivery for the offshore industry.

“At a time when the industry is reeling under the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, this award win has only motivated us to continue promoting the importance of digitalisation in our sector,” P&O Maritime Logistics CEO Martin Helweg. “The industry is constantly evolving and to meet the ever-changing demands of the market and our customers, we have continually devised pathbreaking solutions to tackle the challenges and keep the business going.”

P&O head of information technology Kris Vedat explains what it meant for the company to win at the Seatrade Awards and how the platform is expected to change the way offshore operations are carried out.

IGM: Congratulations on the victory. What does it mean to win the best logistic solution of the year at the Seatrade awards?

KV: We’re very proud of having won the award. It’s nice to have recognition by the industry that the solution and system that we developed is an award-winning product so that is obviously a very nice feeling to have. It’s very humbling.

IGM: How did the project come together?

KV: The project started as many things do, from a gap that we saw in the market. We noticed the gap in the market, and we were tasked with finding a solution to a problem that we saw. That was the catalyst to how we started with the solution.

We also saw that the offshore market needed to change how it operated and what the business process was, and we believed that moving towards a more logistics driven model was the way forward. In order to enable that, we knew we needed to put in place a solution.

IGM: How does the platform work?

KV: At the core, it’s a web-based platform that enables the client to log in and create bookings into the system. We’re also interfacing into the various client systems to automatically transfer data into our system and then the system uses advanced algorithms to start creating route plans and schedules to then distribute the cargo in the most optimal and efficient manner across the various assets that exist in the field.

IGM: The platform is expected to offer a new business model for OSV. How will it do that?

KV: The current business model for offshore operations involves the International Oil Company or the National Oil Company chartering the vessel for a set period of time [after which] the vessel is managed more commonly on a point-to-point basis. This is not a very optimised model.

What we have done is we have now moved that into a more cargo-driven model, where we look at the cargo distribution and we’re able to optimise it based on delivery dates.

IGM: What are its pros compared to a more traditional OSV model?

KV: What we’ve seen in our historical analysis and in our actual analysis is that there’s a sizable reduction in fuel consumption as well as more optimised delivery times. [With the platform], we are able to make the same expectation for delivery times in a more optimised and efficient manner, using less fuel and potentially using less assets to meet the same demand.

IGM: Were you impacted by the current Covid-19 pandemic? If so, how?

KV: From an operational perspective, fortunately when [Covid-19] appeared we had already embarked on a digital journey.

When we talk about connectivity on the vessels – including remote assistance, transparency between the vessel and the shore side, advanced communications on board vessels and remote surveys – that was already in place.

As for the operational impact, we already were in a very good position to deal with the restrictions that came with the pandemic, such as not being able to go on board frequently.

From a crew welfare perspective, we already had enabled communication [allowing crews] to keep in touch with their friends and family.

In regards to managing the vessels and managing the fleet remotely, we already had a marine enterprise resource planning system involved and communications on board of all our assets. We already had systems in place that enabled remote management and remote inspection. We didn’t have to pivot our business model because we were already [becoming more digitalised] before the pandemic.

IGM: What do you expect will happen with regards to shipping in 2021

KV: From an industry perspective, I believe that the drive for digitalisation will continue to be aggressive during 2021.

In my opinion, there will also be cautious investment because it’s still not clear where the market will be in 2021 due to Covid-19. I think people will be cautious when spending, but I don’t think spending will stop, as I believe the industry will recognise that investment is required in order to grow.

We’ll also start using more data in our day-to-day operations, as there will be a growing need to analyse our activities. That will certainly be a trend I see in the industry moving forward.

When looking at P&O, we will continue to push forward with our digital journey rolling out our award-winning logistics platform in more locations in an aggressive manner. We’re also looking at advancing our journey in regards to the Internet of Things as well as condition-based and predictive-based maintenance.

We will continue to progress our partnership with the American Bureau of Shipping into a digital class survey model, as we want to move towards a less intrusive survey model where we use data more to do the class survey instead of having surveyors onboard.