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Brightwell Payments: Cashing in on card flexibility

Shipowners and managers looking to save costs wherever possible in today’s tricky trading environment should think about changing the way they pay their staff at sea. That’s the argument put forward by Mike Gaburo, the chief executive officer of Brightwell Payments in today’s Maritime CEO.

He recalls how Brightwell first got into OceanPay, its unique card system for salaries at sea.

“Like any good business proposition,” Gaburo says, “it all starts with seeing a problem that clients want to solve.”

About 10 years ago, Brightwell saw that even the major international cruiselines were paying crew members by handing out envelopes stuffed with cash each month— “expensive for them and inconvenient for their crew,” Gaburo says.

Given the company’s prepaid card expertise, it was clear to Brightwell that card technology could offer a solution.

Unlike most card use cases though, cruise line crewmembers don’t have ready access to financial services. They spend most of their time working at sea, after all. Plus, the vast majority of cruise crew want to send their pay home, usually to places outside of the US.

“To solve the cash problem for cruise lines and their crews, we had to develop a solution that could be deployed by ships at sea, while meeting the financial needs of a global crew,” Gaburo recalls.

Brightwell’s OceanPay card program was tweaked to offer cruiselines the ability to issue and reprint personalised cards at sea, while offering crew the ability to transfer money to other card holders, as well as the ability to wire money home.

Since OceanPay was launched, Brightwell has added capabilities like the ability for crew to send cash for pick-up at around 500,000 agent locations world-wide, as well as real-time funding to enable clients to fund exception pay to crew in real time.

Of course, OceanPay these days is not the only player in this market but Gaburo argues no competitor has Brightwell’s combination of product functionality and security.

“For cruise and commercial shipowners, no one in the market has Brightwell’s track record of implementing digital payroll programs smoothly, regardless of their size and complexity,” he argues, adding: “Plus, we offer shipowners the peace of mind that comes from our list of Tier 1 enterprise partners. We don’t use card issuing banks you’ve never heard of with offices on the far side of the world.”

Potential savings from using OceanPay are tangible, Gaburo maintains.

“Shipowners and managers reduce the need to arrange cash onboard the vessel, reduce the costs associated with crew payroll, reduce the risk of managing cash for both the owner and crew members, while streamlining administrative procedures. The crew benefit from preferential FX conversions and faster transactions when sending money home, as well as gaining the ability to make online purchases,” Gaburo explains.

Next up is a mobile app due to be rolled out in June.

“Our users have told us that they want to manage their pay in the same way they conduct most of their personal business – from their mobile devices,” Gaburo concludes.


  1. While this service is a benefit to Owners, I found this service created a loss for crew (from personal experience).

    When working on a passenger vessel a similar card based service was rolled out to all crew. We were charged $8 per $1000 to send money home, on top of the charge that our own banks charged to receive currency. As an Officer the $8 wasn’t the end of the world, but it hit the laundry staff and pot washers. They had to pay an additional 1.6% to receive their salary for their families at home.

    Payments were continually late, arriving in the card account a week after pay day, meaning everything got home to families later. Some eastern European crew took 2 weeks to send money to their own bank accounts after the money was sent through various different banks, each charging for the privilege.

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