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Andy Ashwell is the Group Information Officer at Inchcape Shipping Service and has been in this role for about four years. He started his career in IT over 25 years ago. He has worked with various organisations, providing services to the UK public sector to investment banks, and then got into the shipping business about 12 years ago.
What are some of the challenges that are plaguing the industry right now?
We're a global port agency, which means we act on behalf of the disponent owner of the vessel to facilitate their port call. The port call can be anywhere in the world, which could include ensuring that the vessels are aware of pre-arrival information and adhere to it, arranging the relevant customs clearances, berthing, discharging bunkering and so on. Our job is to ensure that the port call takes place as quickly and efficiently as possible while meeting and exceeding compliance and environmental considerations. We handle all sectors from cruise to crude, including containers and dry bulk, and we often have to provide services in very challenging locations, which may be remote or conflict zones. We look after the vessel, and can be appointed by the vessel owner, charterer or ship manager. As soon as the vessels enter the port domain, it becomes our responsibility. We ensure that vessels turn around happens as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Our job is to ensure all requirements the vessel might require are provided, from securing the berth to arranging bunkering, provisions or fresh water, accommodation, and transport of crew, all in line with strict procurement practices.
What are some of the technological trends that are benefiting you in completing your operations on a day-to-day basis?
In the port agency space, we're seeing a need for standardisation and normalisation of data feeds across all of the customers' port calls, specifically mapped to their own internal data conventions. This is important because, traditionally, the port agency market has been fragmented. As a result, the customer would receive information from various sources, making it difficult to gain insight. We can standardise that data. We're providing increased predictability in the form of estimated arrival times based on port congestion and lineups. Predictability is extremely important for all stakeholders. Applying data to help reduce compliance risks is also a key item. Sanctions are top of the agenda and have been for a long time, but the recent Russia-Ukraine conflict has added further emphasis. We are able to provide granularity and clarity on sanction parties associated with either vessel or cargo. Larger customers benefit from direct integrations into our systems, aggregating all the information from various vendors. And then we're seeing data used for optimisation opportunities to improving turnaround time or optimisingportcosts . And lastly, environmental concerns are a really important topic across the industry, helping to track and reduce carbon usage so that the supply chain is compliant and shares the same moral and ethical standards as the customers own standards is very important.
What are some of the practices that you do to employ to increase sustainability in a particular area?
Within the environmental regulations of the port, there is a need to discharge the ballast water before you enter port limits or restrictions. Specific fuel types need to be used as you enter port limits. There may be restrictions on queuing for a berth, noting thatmany vessels running their engineswaiting at port limits can cause muchlocalisedpollution. So, ensuring that the vessels are aware of and adhere to local regulations is extremely important. We're facilitating just-in-time arrival, helping a vessel understand if there's congestion or berths available. We can help optimisetheir arrival time avoiding burning unnecessary fuel. There is a supply chain involved in a port. Whether that be towage providers, pilots, the actual Port Authority themselves, hotels or land transport or garbage removal, we have to ensure that this supply chain adheres to our standards and those of our customers.
Is there any advice you would like to give your peers or leaders in your industry?
The port agency business is very fragmented, as suchstandardisation is required. But equally, it's not realistic to expect this quickly or for customers to standardise and change the way they work and interact with other organisations. Therefore, it’s important to be omni-channel. As an example we find that large enterprise customers value single points of contact and direct integrations, while smaller customers prefer direct local contact. Being digital while allowing customer to interact using their preferred channel is key.