Wilhelmsen Ship Management is streamlining its operations through digitalisation and preparing for a renewable future
Wilhelmsen Ship Management (WSM) decided to relocate its global headquarters from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Singapore at the beginning of 2018. WSM’s president Carl Schou spoke to Singapore Solutions about the rationale behind the move, and areas of focus for growth in the long and short term.
A key driver for the move was that Singapore was seen as having an advantage in terms of the “front-end” of shipping, Mr Schou said. “You have the ship managers, shipowners, ship suppliers, banks and insurance, you have everything […] It is a very concentrated hub for shipping.”
“Singapore’s authorities have a clear goal of being the front runner when it comes to digitalisation in shipping,” added Mr Schou, explaining another reason behind the decision to relocate. “Everybody sees this digital wave that is sweeping over shipping […] Whether you like it or not it is coming, and we want to be in the forefront of this.”
For WSM, digitalisation is focused around operational improvements – developing software and tools to boost efficiency. Key to this is data analysis, Mr Schou explained. WSM is carrying out analysis of more than 1M lines of procurement history to identify trends and to better plan procurement. The company is also developing an e-procurement system in collaboration with a software company that will simplify the procurement process, allowing crew on board vessels to order items directly rather than going through a lengthy tendering process.
Another area of technological innovation relating to procurement is a piece of software being referred to by the working name 'The Commodity Planner.' This analyses what bulk items a vessel regularly buys or services it requires, and cross-references these with the prices for these goods and services at ports on the vessel’s itinerary to identify how to take on supplies and discharge waste most cost effectively. This has been tested with one client with a six-vessel fleet in advance of a wider rollout.
Internet of things technology is being used to analyse bunkers on vessels, Mr Schou said, noting that on one vessel savings of approximately US$1M per year had been achieved by gathering and analysing bunker data.
The company is also involved in a robotic process automation (RPA) trial in Kuala Lumpur, Mr Schou said. This is a technology that trains software to carry out small, repetitive tasks that would normally be done by human input. Aside from freeing up human workers for other duties, RPA is able to run 24/7, boosting efficiency. It is especially useful in finance and accounting and WSM has started two projects based around this with its accounting teams.
WSM is also positioning itself to take advantage of the boom in offshore wind. Mr Schou described the company’s strategy in this area as “very aggressive”.
“Renewable energy is of course the way forward, but what we are seeing is a need for a shipmanagement style of managing [windfarm] assets,” he said. “It is actually a very good match, said Mr Schou, noting that conceptually converter platforms found at windfarms are very similar to rigs found in the offshore oil and gas sector and that operators are still very cost focused and looking for economies of scale, which WSM is able to provide.
Looking to the future, Mr Schou said that as Taiwan is going to be rolling out a substantial amount of wind assets in the next few years, WSM is well-placed to be a part of this. Along with aiming to double its managed fleet of conventional vessels within five years, renewables form a key part of WSM’s future plans, Mr Schou said, adding “The strategy for renewable energy will be very aggressive, so there is no stopping us.”