News Article 06/12/2005 A

3rd Annual Digital Ship Hong Kong Conference - IT Applications (Digital Ship, November 2005,p.6 - 11)

06/12/2005 - Digital Ship, November 2005,p.6 - 11

The afternoon session of the first day was based around shipboard IT applications, and some of the applications that are out there to make use of the satellite capabilities discussed during the morning. Chairman of the session, Paul Ψstergaard, CEO, ShipServ, used his introductory speech to express his feeling that the available technology is becoming more and more exciting.

"Technology will change all of our lives dramatically", he said. "There is continuous evolution, and there''s a fundamental paradigm shift happening right now, into network computing. Linking ships to broadband, that''s part of network computing."

"We cannot imagine the implications", he continued. "It's about creating seamless integration, integrating the whole supply chain " the implications are something we're just starting to feel now. The software is moving from intelligent design to intelligent reaction."
Aswin Atre, NYK shipmanagement

The afternoon session began with a presentation by Aswin Atre, managing director and chief operating officer, NYK shipmanagement, who opened with the statement that "IT has been the bane of my life."
"I'm a cynic in the matter of IT applications, and a two-fingered computer user" said Mr Atre. "The majority of users are not IT professionals. When IT applications are designed for shipboard use they forget that the master is not trained to use sophisticated IT applications. If it's cumbersome to use they tend to reject the application."

He also thinks that the remote nature of shipping also must be factored in to application design. "On shore we have the luxury of calling an IT professional if there'' a problem, and they can resolve it", he explained. "On board, if an error message appears there is no IT expert to fix it. There can be bugs in the system, and it turns out we've been sold another snake juice"

"We need to make sure that people are trained to use the system" he continued. "But these days, with the lack of availability of seafarers, it''s easier said than done. I see the advantage of IT on board, but I want applications that can be used by the seafarers on board who are not IT savvy."
"I suggest that the developers use a person with limited knowledge as a guinea pig to check for easy use of the systems", he ventured. "Software companies need to use somebody like me to ''marinerise'' the applications."

"Staff on board fall into 2 categories; computer savvy or not, and sometimes in awe of the systems. They shouldn't be glued to the screen for hours neglecting their duties", said Mr Atre.

"These factors need to be thought of when discussing applications. Officers can ill-afford to spend too much time on computers, and crew can't spend time troubleshooting shipboard applications. Stringent requirements and quick turnarounds are important for ships."

There was a comment from one of the audience members, who felt that shipowners must share a large part of the responsibility for any errors that occur. "There's a reality gap", he said. "Suppliers make proposals of what the crew can use. You can have a complex system, but people must understand that they can't play with it."

Geoff Arnold, IT Maritime

Geoff Arnold, managing director, IT Maritime Pte (formerly manager, fleet management systems, World Wide Shipping), offered his opinions on how to build a better maritime communications system with the next presentation of the afternoon session.

"Are you satisfied that your marine software applications are meeting your need?" he asked. "Most people aren''t. There are a few main reasons for this; the wrong application was chosen, it wasn't suitable; incorrect information was given to the vendor " Rubbish in = Rubbish out; maybe the vendor promised more than could be delivered, although this is rare; and finally poor implementation" I believe this one is key."

"Usually there is a combination of causes. There may be a lack of commitment by the user, or a lack of support from the vendor."

"So what are some ways to deliver?" asked Mr Arnold. "I think one way is comprehensive market research. One problem is that different customers have different requirements. Customisation can be advantageous to the vendor, but customisation may lead to bugs. Dialogue between the vendor and supplier is important."

"Another key point is getting regular feedback, and acting on that feedback", he said. "It's also important to have selected users do some beta testing."

"But there are things that the customer can do to improve things, like research. Look at available products and look at the end users needs. Management make decisions alone all too often. Don't rush into a final decision, and ensure that the correct information is given to the vendors."

Mr Arnold then talked about the ways to ensure the successful implementation of an IT system. "You need to have comprehensive project management", he said, "where the customers and vendors'' interests are addressed. If there is an external project manager, he can devote all of his time. More and more people are doing this."He also added that "the end users need to buy into the project. End users can make or break the project."

Is software overpriced?

The next item discussed was pricing. "Is maritime software overpriced? No way!" he remarked. "Why? Software includes many hidden costs, like initial development costs, marketing costs and the cost of sales. There''s also the support and maintenance. An application is only as good as the support supplied with it. Good maintenance ensures continued performance."

In conclusion, Mr Arnold explained what he believes are the basics necessary for success. "We need the correct approach by both the customer and the vendor", he said. "We need the end user to be involved in all stages, and, very importantly, we need proper project management."

When the discussion was opened up to the floor, one software vendor issued a challenge to the ship managers. "This is for the customers", he said. "Can they come forward and say how much their performance has improved with software?"

The challenge met with the response; "Will software producers move to value based costing?" at which point the software vendor commented that "I've proposed to people that our fee be based on value saved, but the reply is always laughter."

Another comment was that "shipowners waste resources trying to create their own versions of something that''s already out there" to which Giampiero Soncini, CEO, SpecTec added that "shipping companies making their own software is like Spectec building our own ships for our products."
It would seem that some sections on both sides of the market are still having difficulties communicating their IT wants and requirements to each other.


Dr Panagiotis Nomikos, Danaos

The final session of the day covered shipboard applications, the collection of data, and monitoring ships''performance, and was chaired by Dr Panagiotis Nomikos, president of AMMITEC and business development manager, Danaos. To start off, he referred to the differences between vendors and customers that had been demonstrated during the day's earlier sessions.

"This debate is age old", he began. "My answer is that the industry moves on. We improve the software, and the users expand their needs and abilities. Life goes on."
Moving on to talk about the Danaos system, Dr Nomikos remarked "You can have fantastic software, but if you can't implement it properly you will fail. We deliver a complete working system."
"The oil majors want to distinguish the ''true quality'' operators from those operating under the minimum requirements of ISM", he continued. "KPIs and TMSA are important factors in this. We need to accurately measure and report KPIs, and only an integrated software system covering everything can provide a full range of KPI metrics accurately."
He added that "different KPIs require information from a mixture of different software modules. Software can be used to manage KPIs and notify those necessary, when it''s required, to fix a KPI. A completely integrated software solution is necessary for KPI measurement and follow-up."

"A single vendor is imperative for KPIs" he continued. "It''s impossible to do KPI metrics if you have a system from different vendors. You need the software to measure your own company''s information to set against your own KPIs, set against the benchmarks. The company decides its own KPIs, we just give them a way to measure."

With regard to TMSA, he said that these standards should be expanded to other ship types. "It''s next to impossible to do this with Excel", he said. "You must have state of the art IT. TMSA explicitly says you must have computerised vessel maintenance."
"You can also use this system to show an auditor that, although you had a problem, you took corrective action", he added.

Jennefer Tobin, Datatrac

Jennefer Tobin, managing director, Datatrac, gave the next presentation of the day's final session, to talk about some of the further options available in the field of automatic data gathering.

"You need it to monitor operational performance, improve efficiency and safety, stop equipment failure and for base line information" she said, speaking to the audience about the importance of data. "You need to capture the best, accurate data. There are two categories; automatically collected data or data with collection initiated by the person."
"Bureau Veritas says it needs 20,000 bits of information to do a hull survey", she continued, "which is an 800 page report. The data has to be collected automatically, or it will be impossible. Digital data is ''live'' data, and it can be collected, moved around and exported from the ship. You can collect ''live'' data by hand, or you can get it automatically from the equipment."
The future should see easier and more efficient data collection, said Ms Tobin. "In the future, we will collect data just one time, at the source. Then it can be made available on board for other purposes, and it can be analysed and reported from the ship."

"There should be no typing", she continued. "Most people aren't typists but they do it too much, picking up the skills along the way."

"But the most important thing is to be able to automatically convert the data into real information", said Ms Tobin. "We want information, not data, with the data you are just trying to peel off the information. But someone''s information is someone else''s data. Don't just collect it all and chuck it at some poor chap who's got to make sense of it."

In conclusion Ms Tobin outlined the four main benefits of automatic data collection;saving money, improving accuracy, reducing workload and improving efficiency.

Otto Pedersen, Palantir

"There is always something that doesn''t work." These were the words of Otto Pedersen of Palantir, the next speaker to take the podium, with a presentation about monitoring and managing shipboard PC applications.

"Reporting to the management is important" he continued, and mentioned some of the important questions the crew can ask; "Can I report to management electronically? Where is my back-up? Is my anti-virus up to date? Where are my standard icons?"

"People want to keep the standards they are used to", he explained.

Mr Pedersen then expressed his belief that IT outsourcing is essential for shipping companies to operate at optimum efficiency. "Shipmanagement should just run the ship, their skill is not in IT", he said. "With IT departments, it's expensive to run the systems, and there may be a lack of resources available within the company."

"What if the network communication is down?"he continued. "Someone has done something he shouldn''t do. But this time zone is bed time in the office, so they call the IT department crying, saying "We have big gloves and should just run the vessel, we don''t want to do paperwork", and the IT manager was sleeping and is woken up and is asked to fix the problem."

"IT departments never get large enough budgets", said Mr Pedersen. "But then fleet management and accounts complain all the time to the IT department, and don't buy their arguments any more, and they take control."

Costs

The factor of costs alone should convince people that they need to have a high level of technical support for their vessels, Mr Pedersen argued, saying that "three days of onboard costs are greater than twenty days of onshore costs."
"There should be predictable IT costs", he said. "There should be easy upgrades with no IT skills, and one uniform IT standard across the vessels. All systems need to be pre-loaded and tested."
The quality assurance of the IT system must be auditable", he added. "In Norway, oil companies are auditing IT systems on vessels."

"We want one onshore server as a ''fleet IT master'' with an onboard server as a ''slave''", said Mr Pedersen. "And the onboard clients should also be self-correcting. Then whatever you do onshore happens on the vessel server. We can send commands and sources by email, or if it''s too big we can send it by CD. We can send a command to the active director on a shipboard server, and get a new user account."

To be successful, he suggested that "we need to manage the process, with analysis (after establishing need), proper proposal, and implementation."

In conclusion Mr Pedersen talked about his own experiences working in shipping IT. "I was in charge of the IT department of an offshore shipowner", he said. "There were 9 vessels when I started, but 27 when I resigned. With this system I wouldn''t have resigned. Palantir is installed on 720 vessels. None of them has had support phone calls."

Farzin Karma, Ulysses Systems

Farzin Karma, managing director, Ulysses Systems Singapore, was the last speaker for the first day of the conference, and presented some of his ideas about how to get the most out of shipboard software systems.

"We need to maximize user convenience while minimizing the software life cycle cost", he said, outlining the ultimate goal in optimizing IT systems. "We need to address the ''what's in it for me?'' factor."

He suggested that analyzing and comparing efficiency was an important step in appraising systems. "I look at the 5 Cs; Convenience, Commercial advantage (or Cost effectiveness), Compliance, Compatibility, and Capability."

"The convenience factor is important", continued Mr Karma. "A system is only convenient if the perceived effort of using it is more than the actual effort involved."

He illustrated this idea with the equation: Convenience factor = Perceived effort  Actual effort. For encouraged usage the Convenience factor should be greater than zero. "If the perceived effort is 5 minutes but your system actually takes 7 minutes, the user won't think it's convenient. You have to show your system is better than the perception."

"Software functionality is dependent on convenience for users", he explained. "Software cost is not just from installation and maintenance. Error correction costs are an extra cost  our studies show that it's similar to the installation cost. The training cost is similar to the purchase cost per ship, per year. The usage cost is 5 to 10 times the purchase cost."

Mr Karma also mentioned KPIs as an important part of a company's strategy. "KPIs are one of the most useful aspects of marine IT", he said. "You can't go to any meeting of maritime managers without the mention of KPIs. But relatively little attention is given to the convenience and collectability of the data needed. Faulty KPIs can have more damaging results than no KPIs."

"But no-one should need to go and enter data", he added, "it should be automatic. For some KPIs, think about how many people you''d need to have working on Excel to use the data. So be generous to your software vendors!"

Panel Discussion

The day's proceedings closed with a discussion to examining how the audience felt about their software options, in front of a panel that included G.A. Shankar, Otto Pedersen, Geoff Arnold, Jennefer Tobin, Giampiero Soncini, Aswin Atre, and Farzin Karma, with Dr Panagiotis Nomikos acting as chairman.

The first comment of the session came from the floor, saying that "Technology is moving. We want ease of implementation, ease of use. To avoid garbage in, garbage out, you need the seafarer to know that the system is easy to use and that he can use it", which echoed some of the usage concerns mentioned in the earlier session.

Another question that came from the floor concerned the level of software development in the industry. Mr Atre gave his own view; "There is a feeling that software is being put in ships for its own sake, for example, CNGs. Each ship is considered a separate project with separate software."

"We need a standard", he continued. "Software needs to be used and staff needs to be trained very well. But ship staff is not properly trained right now."

"The impression I get is that IT is not considered a strategic investment" added Mr Soncini. "In land based industries it is. It shows that our industry is not reacting to the new technology that's available."

Dr Nomikos explained his thoughts on some of the reasons for this."It's due to lack of bandwidth", he said. "In the 80s, company branches were not connected, at that time it was hard for IT managers to convince management to increase IT."

"Now, with the internet, people realise the power of IT. Now it seems that the bandwidth problem will be solved, I think it will be mandatory for shipping companies to have highly connected IT systems. A bank today would close down if it wasn't connected."

But take-up of broadband connectivity has been slow, as Mr Soncini pointed out, saying that "I think that broadband is still far away. If 0.5 per cent of ships have broadband, I''d be surprised."

Similarities, or otherwise, with the aviation industry was another issue that came up. "Why doesn''t shipping have the same ideas as aviation?" wondered one audience member. "Connectivity has been there for us for 20 years, that's not the problem with our industry. It''s a matter of mentality. 9 out of 10 chief engineers don't know what KPIs are."

Mr Atre continued with this theme. "Ships can''t put a figure on the benefits of having fast connections", he said. "A fleet might have different systems. Shipowners and managers aren't against IT, but they can't quantify improvements. It's not fair to compare us to aviation either aviation is very standard (e.g. Boeing, Airbus). I can't tell a captain that with IT his job becomes easier."

Mr Karma also commented on measurability. "Quantifying benefits is difficult, but you can do a few things", he commented. "One is time trials' usage time. Keep the parameters correct and have constants, and you can have a quantifiable."


Standards and obsolescence

The issue of standardisation and protection from obsolescence was another serious one for many ship managers. There seemed to be differences of opinion between vendors and customers about the importance that should be placed on IT, and the amount of time and money that should be invested.

"Most ships have retro fitted PCs", explained Mr Atre. "Standardisation can't happen easily on a retro fitted ship. We can train people, but then they leave. How do we know the new people will be as well trained?"

"Companies send old PCs from the office to the ship", answered Dr Nomikos. "We need to treat IT as a modern professional strategy."

Mr Shankar also added that "Standardisation is very difficult. Different managers have different requirements."

Mr Atre replied again; "We bought new computers 3 years ago, now they're out of date, and can't use the new software you've designed."

"What percentage of your costs is spent updating PCs?" asked Mr Karma, to which Mr Atre replied that "it''s not justifying the return." Mr Karma wondered if Mr Atre had even tried to measure the return.

"Do any shipowners have an IT strategy?" asked Mr Pedersen, changing tack slightly. "You should not just stamp and not change. Most don''t have an IT strategy. You should have it, and change it as the IT grows."

Mr Atre argued that there were "lots of different SQLs", which Mr Pedersen agreed was a problem, and continued that "you can''t build a product that's beautiful, but I can't use it. You have to make IT for dummies."

From the audience the point was made that "There seems to be a diminished perception of value in IT and software. If you look at what you spend on paint, varnish, etc.  relative to investing in things like planned maintenance, it's very skewed. It seems that there is very little importance placed on important areas."

This idea of a lack of modernisation in shipping was supported by Mr Soncini. "This industry is different", he said. "We're still supporting AMOS D, even though we discontinued it 9 years ago. It's very expensive to run global support."

"When we launched AMOS mail, we sold 5,000 or 6,000, because the communications savings were obvious", he added. "Why don't you measure savings? It should be done, you should measure the cost of your ships. You have been using systems for 10 years, have you ever analysed the data? If we don't come out and do this we can't move ahead."

Dr Nomikos closed the discussion with a positive view of progress in the future. "I believe that shipping will make IT a strategic tool  it's happened in every other industry", he said. "It's impossible to measure KPIs effectively, without hiring 10 more people, unless you use software. The issues are training, and that it's easy to use and install. We can't move into the 21st century if IT is not considered as strategic."