PT Shipmanagement’s cloud system is integral to the way the company serves the container ship sector
PT Shipmanagement certainly has a unique selling point – its owner Patrick Toll explains it is the first fully digital shipmanagement company in Germany with its “cloud-first approach”.
Mr Toll only set up the company in October 2015. It has five container vessels under management (two 1,300 TEU, two 2,200 TEU and one 2,500 TEU). Mr Toll worked for Hamburg-based shipmanagement companies for many years before deciding to branch out on his own.
“After I left my last position at a shipmanagement company, I collected money for a year before starting the company from scratch,” he says. “I would like to grow the company, although I do not need to in terms of revenue as we have a good ratio of people to vessels. Also, everything is cloud-based so there is no hardware, no maintenance and less staff which is better for balance sheet.”
He says that while growth has been slow, the company is working on several projects to gain more tonnage. And the company has unique selling points that stand it in good stead for future growth. As Mr Toll says, while the container sector is a “difficult market”, he is in a “pretty good position, as many owners are looking for niche/boutique managers with a more hands-on and closer focus on day-to-day operations. Consolidation of several managers is in sight, there is the need to make inefficient managers bigger in size to compensate their internal structural burden.”
Foundation of the company
PT Shipmanagement’s cloud system is the foundation of the company and provides a range of benefits. Mr Toll says, “We can provide in-time information about vessels and cargo, we can also share the data and make it available to operators if they wish.” But he pointed out “we still face constraints in this sector as they are very conservative with online data. In general, we see that sharing data is reducing possible downtime.”
He adds “We have low off-hire times, we can work from everywhere which makes my employees very flexible. All asset information is available in the cloud and can easily be shared. Work on board and ashore is reduced by cloud-centric operations. This also helps with crew retention. We use the data to run vessels more efficiently making us more attractive to charterers.”
Giving more examples, using PT Shipmanagement’s digital systems reduces manual tasks – for example rather than scanning documents and emailing them, they can be uploaded to the cloud and automatically circulated. Mr Toll adds “It is about knowing how to access the data in the cloud. I can pull out data – for example, how many containers on a ship at a given time, how many reefers, how many empties. We could even share the position of the vessel and speed by the minute or even quicker. By accessing the data by API, it allows us to show the vessel moving.”
Furthermore, online catalogues can be added to the system allowing crew to order spare parts, negating the need for multiple emails.
Using a cloud-based system means the company can take over vessels very quickly. Mr Toll comments “We do not need documents; we just need one person and a computer.”
Mr Toll sums up “One of the biggest benefits is that you just need a computer and internet connection and can run the cloud on this. I cannot understand why the industry is talking about internet on board – in two years we won’t talk about it anymore, the technology will just be there and used.”
However, he emphasises that using such a system is about having the right attitude too. “A good set of tools does not make you a mechanic, you need to be open minded to use the full power of the cloud. That is something I do not see with many people,” he says.
The aim should be to reduce the administrative workload on board to free up time for the crew to run the ship and not to send reports and emails
Indeed, he does not see widespread digitalisation within container shipmanagement. “It is one of the most important things which should happen, but it is often done wrong, taking old processes and make them look good in an online tool. Just making it digital does not help, there is much more a computer or cloud can do and the aim should be to reduce the administrative workload on board to free up time for the crew to run the ship and not send reports and emails.
“So, in other words the industry is far away, and the trend to build up a so-called control centre taking responsibility from the ship ashore is used as a business case to create more value on the account of the manager. But in the real world, the crew feels monitored and it does not help when you have five people looking at several screens showing position and speed. The crew knows best as they are on board to run the ship and such a centre should not be named control but assistance – support centre.”
Digitalisation might be slow on the uptake in the German market because of the previous KG shipmanagement model. Mr Toll explains “The disadvantage is that German shipmanagers had the KG model. This was why they never needed to be competitive – there was enough money in the market. You could be the worst company and still have money and then suddenly this model was over. Most of the vessels were sold to Greek or Chinese owners who are good managers as they have competitive pressures. There are more people working on a low balance sheet who know how to consolidate and become more competitive.”
This new state of affairs builds the foundations for a greater deployment of digitalisation.
Snapshot CV: Patrick Toll (PT Shipmanagement)
Partrick Toll has been part of the Hamburg-based shipping industry since 1997. After studying at London’s North West Kent College, the marine engineer began his career as a service technician at MAN B&W Diesel. He gained 11 years extensive knowledge in constructing marine engines and their worldwide commissioning, diagnosis, maintenance and repair. In 2008, he became superintendent at Komrowski (Blue Star) and four years later fleet manager at Rickmers Shipmanagement, where he was responsible for a fleet of 34 ships. In 2015, the Hamburg native founded PT-Shipmanagement GmbH, which is considered the world’s first fully digitalised shipmanagement company.