fixing marine crew administration challenges with Vessul

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, global lockdown restrictions were put in place, which have caused significant disruption to the shipping industry. Disruptions in the supply chain and unavailability of shipping containers are just some of the problems the industry has faced.

The current situation has made it imperative for the shipping industry to function smoothly, especially when it comes to arranging travel for their workers.

Vessul was founded to help industry steer the movement of key workers in the marine and energy industries. The platform enables companies to quickly book trips for multiple employees around the world to ensure they arrive at the next destination at the same time.

Thomas Young explains how Vessul works and what key challenges he believes ship workers will face this year.

Frankie Youd (FY): Can you tell me a little bit about Vessul and how it works?

Thomas Young (TY): Vessul is essentially a crew rotation platform. Shipping companies, other types of shipping companies, and energy companies can use the platform to manage and book the business trips of the crew that needs to be switched.

For example, let’s say a ship is going from Beijing to the UK. It stops a few times and one of those locations is in Dubai. When they arrive in Dubai they may need to change crew.

That could be 20 people coming from the ship and 20 people coming on the ship. With Vessul you can do it all. A crew manager or a travel manager can carry out a search and a booking for everyone who comes on the ship.

There may be five people coming from Manchester to Dubai and ten people from Johannesburg to Dubai. You must all be in the same place at the same time and be ready to board this ship. The same goes for the people who leave the ship. They all have to get off the ship from Dubai to go to different locations around the world. You can book all of this with Vessul in a single booking.

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FY: What problems do maritime workers face? How does Vessul intend to solve it?

TY: At the moment when someone has to book travel in this sector, it is a rather fragmented process. They mostly do this themselves by hiring a large travel team that is then responsible for booking the entire trip. There are lots of Excel spreadsheets, emails, and information – it takes a lot of time.

Other companies may have a pre-management system. They may have set up a travel management company, then plan the crew rotation in the crew management system. Then they’ll pass the information on to the travel management company, where the massive customer service team will have to book everything manually.

With our solution we can limit the errors and limit the overall costs, and there are massive savings for our customers. We have worked with existing travel management companies that they are already working with so that we can combine our technology with the systems we already have.

FY: The service has been tested by BETA. What were the results?

TY: We have selected different companies [including] mainly shipping and maritime companies [and] also some mining companies.

The first test was to find out what size crew rotations we could use our platform for. We wanted to understand where this ends so we know what kind of crew changes can occur on an online platform.

We have found that our solution is perfect for small to medium-sized crew changes [because] It is around 50-70 people. In time we will be able to do larger crew rotations online, but for now we know that is not the focus. Our focus is on small to medium-sized crew changes.

We wanted to use a BETA test to see how much the online percentage would be compared to the offline percentage of booking trips. Ahead of us, the market average of crew rotations booked through a customer service rep with no technology was 98%. When we have implemented our service, we can reduce it from 98% to around 50% to 60%.

FY: Why do you think a system like Vessul wasn’t there before?

TY: This side of the travel industry is dominated by travel management companies. If you are a maritime company and your travel management company doesn’t have the technology available to you, you are stuck because you need a travel management company to provide all of the global customer service.

This is one of those industries that it’s not that attractive to a lot of entrepreneurs, but for me it’s one of those industries that has a lot of potential for technology. It is an industry whose technological need is growing.

Their innovation is slower compared to any other industry as there aren’t that many entrepreneurs in this area, whether it’s attractive or due to some barriers to entry.

One barrier to entry is that the way you work and your priorities make it very difficult to convince the shipping company to work with you. Just as we did it, we worked with strategic partners who are already active in this area right from the start, which made this a lot easier for us.

FY: What challenges do you think the shipping teams are facing this year?

TY: One of the main themes is the reopening of the borders. There are still many problems getting visa permits for the occupation in certain countries.

This is a problem because the occupation cannot leave the country or the occupation cannot get to a certain country. That’s a challenge for at least the next year or two, depending on how quickly the world gets vaccinated and opens up again.

The only way we can prevent this risk is to make sure we can give the shipping lines and crews the correct information in advance. If they cannot crew change in a particular country, we can give them an alternate port from which they may be less strict so we can get the crews moving.

FY: Is there anything else you think our readers should know?

TY: One thing I will tell readers, especially for this industry, is not to be afraid of change. I think this sector needs to do more.

Be curious, proactive and try to understand what changes are coming by looking at different startups or what investment trends are happening to make sure the shipping company is as efficient as possible.

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