ShipSure 2.0: gaining the digital advantage

Digital ship management platforms and mobile apps will transform working practices, while offering a cutting-edge advantage. Here, director of V.Ships Leisure Per Bjornsen explains why cruise managers should be looking to gain the digital advantage

ruise ship managers in the modern maritime environment need to successfully spin several plates at once. Passenger satisfaction, crew welfare, operational efficiencies, component condition, regulatory compliance and vessel and data security – plus the ever-present need to grow the business while drawing a clear profit – are all closely intertwined objectives.

Maintaining a competitive edge in the cruise industry, which is subject to constant flux, hinges upon the ability to rapidly access, analyse and act upon business-critical information. It makes sense that the most effective way to obtain a definitive business overview in real time is to derive all the necessary data and insights via a single platform, as opposed to expending precious time and effort chasing input from numerous unconnected sources – information which might also be presented in a jumble of different formats.

V.Group - Position List for Commercial Managers in ShipSure 2.0

Facilitating transparent information-sharing

A properly comprehensive, joined-up view can really only be provided by a fully-integrated digital ship-management platform. One of the earliest and most successful integrated information technology portals to appear, some 15 years ago, was ShipSure, developed and introduced by V.Ships, the maritime services arm of V.Group.

“ShipSure was designed to offer easy access to secure manual and automated data

ShipSure was designed to offer easy access to secure manual and automated data concerning every aspect of ship management – from crewing, location information and procurement, right through to fuel consumption and maintenance scheduling.

ShipSure has subsequently been superseded by the next-generation ShipSure 2.0 system, which extends the availability of crucial data from the office with a set of deep mobile applications available on Android and iOS tablets and smartphones. Based upon four pillars ­– finance, crewing, procurement and marine operations – ShipSure 2.0 is intended to facilitate the transparent sharing of information between ship owners, vessels and ship managers. The mobile app version allows the broadest range of relevant information to be attained “within three clicks” from anywhere at any time, thereby enabling overall fleet status checks to be carried out while literally on the move.

Benefits for cruise operators

For time-poor cruise ship operators with a wealth of responsibilities, the benefits this kind of instant access provide hardly need spelling out.

With performance and operational insights at their fingertips 24/7, operators need never lose sight of vital real-time business, vessel and fleet details, maintaining constant control over diverse facets including budgets, transactions, compliance, crewing, on-board safety and vessel-critical operations. The ‘digital advantage’ this functionality represents also contributes to speedy but informed decision-making; a pivotal factor for staying one jump ahead in a hugely competitive marketplace.

“V.Group’s most recent project was launched with the purpose of transforming the digital journey of seafarers

An important consideration is the fact that digital ship management portals can also permit cruise vessel operation and commercial teams to be privy to the same essential data concerning, for example, ship performance and position tracking, procurement cycle tracking (all the way from quotation to delivery), vessel certification status checks, risk management and maintenance scheduling.

To this end, V.Group’s most recent project, Embark, was launched in August 2018 with the stated purpose of transforming the digital journey of seafarers, who will be able to access key information through a dedicated app on their mobile devices. This initiative recognises a need to bring crew management and welfare up to speed with digitalisation-led advances elsewhere in the maritime sector.

With V.Group’s digital ship-management tools, security is an essential watchword throughout. Cruise operators, crews and passengers should be reassured that decisive and sensitive information is protected by adherence to industry best practice security protocols, including encryption of communication and sensitive data encryption in databases. Access is through tightly firewalled and monitored servers, with strictly controlled and audited processes around permissions to servers and customer data.

These safeguards operate without compromising transparency: cruise companies using the ShipSure 2.0 platform would still be able to monitor every element of their operation without hindrance.

Between them, ShipSure 2.0’s modules also cover factors including real-time data on payrolls, personnel, invoicing, operational costs and emission management, plus the provision of links to supplier portals. A significant element in ShipSure 2.0’s favour is the knowledge that V.Group owns the technology stack, so the platform can legitimately claim to be a properly integrated digital solution – not a mix-and-match hotchpotch of off-the-shelf systems that may or may not be technologically compatible.

V.Group - ShipSure 2.0 can display AIS plots

Improving the passenger experience

On one level, the upshot of adopting a fully-integrated digital ship-management platform is that the accumulation of insights inevitably drives safer, greener, more efficient and more economical working practices. But with more and more parts of the world opening up to the adventure and expedition cruise market, perfecting the passenger experience is also a key consideration – and in this regard, digitalisation is again a central component.

“Digitalisation is a central component of perfecting the passenger experience”

From a passenger and crew perspective, it stands to reason that the remote destinations featured in adventure cruises would appear far less attractive without the technology that provides unbroken on-board satellite connectivity. This enables close contact to be maintained with family and friends on land, while videos and photos from the heart of each cruise can be instantly uploaded to social media sites – essentially, a very powerful free marketing channel.

While smart data analytics drive profitability and sustainability by predicting wear on cruise ship engine parts and enabling appropriate maintenance intervals to be planned, new ShipSure 2.0 modules are being developed all the time to spread this informed overview throughout the entire on-board ecosystem.

As an example, a user-friendly Hotel Maintainer app has been developed specifically for the cruise industry, enabling housekeeping personnel to report defects or maintenance issues which will be monitored by the deck department. The app not only ensures that defects will be repaired, but also enables cruise operators (and V.Group) to analyse repetitive faults and the lifespan of consumables and equipment for more efficient preventative maintenance.

Additionally, with the increase of eco zones throughout the world, ShipSure 2.0’s environmental module will permit cruise companies to pursue a greener agenda, supplying essential information on vessel discharges to air and water as the industry describes a gradual arc towards a clean fuel transition (cruise ships powered by liquid hydrogen are already under development).

The digital advantage going forward

ShipSure 2.0 is currently being successfully trialled by Saga Travel, with CEO Robin Shaw describing it as “an invaluable tool.” V.Group believes that as the cruise industry matures, outsourcing of more aspects of the business will grow: the company’s declared aspiration is to transform the industry and to further grow its leading position in the cruise segment.

“As the cruise industry matures, outsourcing of more aspects of the business will grow "

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the complex, multi-faceted nature of operating a cruise company in the modern era can only be efficiently served through the single-source combination of business insights and complete 360° control offered by an integrated digital ship management platform.

With safety, profitability, environmental compliance and crew and guest satisfaction as primary motivators, coherent and consistent business workflows are of critical importance if cruise companies are to remain economically viable in such a hotly-contested sphere. Furthermore, taking into consideration the global ‘final warning’ and call to action the entire planet received from climate change scientists in October this year, the importance of ‘the digital advantage’ in a wider than strictly business sense cannot be understated.