MTM Ship Management enhanced its digitalisation efforts to respond to the global pandemic, ensuring seamless ship management and crew services, while transforming its business
While change may be the only constant in life, Covid became the prime mover of change in 2020, forcing Singapore-based ship manager MTM Ship Management to look for innovative ways to minimise disruption of its supply chain management.
Responding quickly, the leadership of MTM developed a business continuity plan, testing technologies to allow employees to work remotely for two weeks before the lockdown was announced officially in Singapore. Teething problems were quickly attended by IT executives and meetings commenced on Microsoft Teams. MTM officially began its work from home programme on 27 March and the national lockdown was announced on 7 April. This allowed a smooth, seamless service transition for clients and crew. “Thriving in the face of disruption was important and we did this together as a team,” says MTM managing director Capt Rajiv Singhal.
“Metathesiophobia did not exist in MTM,” says Capt Singhal. “All team leaders and country heads of MTM offices around the world worked together to explore innovative ideas to manage the crew changes, inspections and audits and arrangement of stores, spares and services.” This included daily Covid meetings among all team leaders to ensure supply chain management of MTM-managed ships. “We even learned how to charter flights ourselves to transport our crews. The supply chain management team was working with worldwide partners and supporting the ship management division with innovative contributions which eventually became standard operating procedures for purchasing and services,” he says.
Enhancing the IT infrastructure
One action was the enhancement of MTM’s IT infrastructure to allow virtual meetings to be conducted. These virtual meetings were not only as good as physical meetings but more productive and less time consuming,” notes Capt Singhal. Installation of CCTV allowed vessel superintendents to monitor ships and have a virtual walk around in lieu of physical visits. Teams in India, Singapore and the US collaborated to carry out inspections and audits for each other. Agreement was reached with various classification societies to carry out audits and inspections remotely. Some of the SIRE and TMSA inspections were also conducted remotely.
The new dynamics of ship management had emerged in MTM, but the ship manager was not alone in the evolution. All ship managers and organisations associated with the shipping industry developed similar plans and strategies to deal with the situation.
“Covid has taught us to be resilient and overcome barriers like emotional and mental stress. My daughter may get married overseas in April with me watching it on Zoom. You can imagine my feelings, but I cannot complain. I need to be resilient,” says Capt Singhal.
To improve productivity at all levels within the organisation, MTM engaged experienced executives from the HR industry to review the company’s organisation health index. “We learned that hardships were powerful learning experiences for all of us individually and collectively. The transformation of the company’s culture towards excellence had begun. The company’s mission and values were redefined to believe in our strengths and recognise areas of improvement, especially directed towards communication, teamwork, accountability, trust, equality and appreciation. We seized this opportunity for organisational transformation. We learned innovation through team collaboration,” notes Capt Singhal.
MTM adjusted its sails to emerge stronger in its commitment towards protection, safety and the welfare of its seafarers. “While the world recognised them as frontline workers and Covid warriors in keeping the supply chain industry moving for human existence, the seafarers faced a lot of hardships like being stranded on ships, separated from loved ones, no vaccinations, subject to numerous swab tests, quarantine periods during signing on and off, escorts to airports, no shore leave, endless weeks and months waiting for the opportunity to join, no pay on failing the PCR tests before joining, serious financial hardship – basically unbearable pressures.
The MTM crewing department worked to provide the maximum support to the seafarers. Daily crewing team meetings and team collaborations led to bold decisions like chartering flights, using chartered flights with other companies, diverting ships to the mother country of seafarers and sometimes diverting ships to friendly ports which allowed crew changes without restrictions that could not be met. Our seafarers are very important members of the MTM family. We continue to put our family in the forefront of our priorities. This is what makes MTM, MTM.”
MTM’s training department used digital technology to maintain the connection with seafarers on leave and prepare them for the next assignment. Web-based learning was introduced linked to appraisal systems and professional development of seafarers. This brought classroom courses to the homes of seafarers. Regular webinars are being conducted for seafarers on leave to enhance safety awareness and keep them connected with changes of the company’s safety management system (SMS) and planned maintenance system (PMS). Powerful learning engagement tools were developed to make these webinars interactive and meaningful. The use of social media platforms has vastly improved the company’s safety culture and behavior-based performance of seafarers. “We believe the ships do not move cargoes. The people do”, says Capt Singhal. “Hence our commitment in training them regularly using digital technology. While this was developed to overcome the travel restrictions, this is now to stay in the post-Covid business environment.”
MTM’s technical department developed innovative tools for accessing and implementing a plan for asset management over and above the company’s PMS. This included standardised plans for periodic reviews of vessel’s cosmetic condition, cargo tank and ballast tank conditions. Now regular monitoring and upgrading plans are in force and this has become part of the company’s SMS and PMS. The inspection regime was tightened through condition-based monitoring and CCTV installation that gave the vessel ship inspection coverage 24/7. Inspections were carried out on schedule using outgoing CE or locally available competent inspectors. The marine department continued with audits on time based on guidelines provided by flag-state administrations and classification societies for remote audits. The fleet managers and superintendents now meet the onboard management teams on Microsoft Teams or other available means at least twice a month. These virtual meetings have resulted in better bonding between ship-shore teams giving better performance in SIRE and PSC inspections.
While all the above initiatives were being taken by ship management divisions to cope with Covid restrictions, the supporting teams played a very active role in improving their own service delivery. The finance team revamped the accounting system and moved up from the traditional accounting system to Microsoft GP. This provided new dimensions to data analytics which proved to be a very important tool in analysing expenses and planning predictive maintenance and cash flow for the owners.
MTM’s technical and marine teams have jointly worked with developers and IT executives to digitalise the management of carbon emissions from the ships. “This has improved our end-to-end visibility and tracking ability of the carbon footprint,” says Capt Singhal. “With this initiative and development, MTM can now strategise the decarbonisation programme to achieve alignment to trajectories set by Poseidon Principles and Sea Cargo Charter initiatives. We are now able to link our programmes on decarbonisation, voyage optimisation and hull optimisation to save fuel. In 2021, our main focus is going to be on efficient energy management using the systems and processes developed by the MTM team.
I would not like to give Covid any credit for driving us to make all the improvements mentioned, but it cannot be forgotten that the pandemic accelerated the fundamental changes in the working atmosphere and style of ship management. One of the great lessons from the Covid crisis is the importance of resilience,” concludes Capt Singhal.
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