Hire a Chief Technology Officer, now!

Yes, we can discuss the price of oil and its peregrinations. Or the pressing need for and surprising lack of moves to consolidate. Or even analyse to death the supply overhang and how this is expected to play out in different scenarios.

All these are important topics.

There is one much more pressing issue that needs airing – our industry’s current luddite state and the concomitant need to pull ourselves along and up the technology curve.

Information technology revolutions seem to pass our industry by without even a mere howdedo. I know of companies at which ‘technology’ means an accounting software or at best, a basic PMS coded in the eighties. I have dealt with others where manual invoice registers are maintained. Some of our websites limp from page to page arthritically. The term ‘cloud’ is often seen only in daily weather reports.

Yes, there are some (very few!) companies who have recognised the need for and benefits accruing from embracing technology and are doing some wonderful things. But, on the whole, we are well behind the current curve.

And this curve is only going to become sharply steeper, very rapidly. At the very least, the next few years are going to see:

  • Centrally managed smart machinery using artificial intelligence
  • Self-diagnosing and correcting equipment using machine learning
  • Distributed, unified contracting of services and supply chains using Blockchain
  • Unmanned and autonomous vessels, leading to vessel-swarms
  • Fully-automated ports and supply bases using robotics
  • Commoditisation of assets and services due to data-democratisation

These changes are not going to be incremental. Nor are they going to be optional. There is a tsunami coming; we can either catch the wave or capsize.

Out of the 18 companies in the maritime and offshore sector I have spoken to over the last two months, not one has a team focused on business technology. There is no one driving an understanding of the changes that are barrelling our way, and no one preparing to adapt to and respond to these changes. Some teams do not have the bandwidth to even evaluate a technological solution proposed by a service provider.

This is short-sighted. We need to invest now in girding ourselves for the future. We need to understand which aspects of technology will lap at our feet, and which aspects will inundate us. We need to prepare our investment strategies, our systems and processes, and our people not just to react, but to ride the wave and use it to build a future-proof business that will be spared the tumult of the storm.

Maritime and offshore companies should waste no time in investing in a capable Chief Technology Officer (and a business technology team). This role, working closely with the board and the marketing, technical and operations teams, will help develop a road-map for the future, harnessing and leveraging technology to guide the company safely and effectively into the first of many tomorrows.


Photo: Wartsila

Venkatraman Sheshashayee

Venkatraman Sheshashayee (Shesh) is Managing Director of Radical Advice, a business transformation advisory based in Singapore. He has over 34 years of experience in manufacturing, shipping and offshore oil & gas. Shesh’s previous roles include CEO of Miclyn Express Offshore, CEO & ED of Jaya Holdings Limited and Managing Director of Greatship Global. In his new avatar, Shesh helps SMEs, start-ups and aspiring professionals achieve their potential.


  1. I disagree somewhat with the changes not being incremental, but that depends on your definition of incremental (I suppose relatively to the past pace of adopting technology, in the future we’re now facing the change will be relatively non-incremental)

    The most important thing will be for shipping companies to be able to understand the technology in order to be on top of it and push for real value. There are lots of vendors/offerings out there, and while some of it is excellent, a lot of it will inevitably be less well thought out or unfit for the business or the people who operates the vessel.
    Who will know what is really valuable, if not the owner? The vendor will sell you stuff regardless of the real business value and they certainly won’t be able to tell you if it’s really best for your situation(or rather, you don’t want to be in that position). Right now, the competency and understanding of technology lies disproportionally with hi-tech vendors and equipment suppliers, and they will shape reality with the owners having less of a say.

    The result could be loss of competitiveness as much because you’re adopting the wrong solutions, or utilizing them poorly, as much as for not adopting any high-tech. I welcome some comments on this from the author or anyone else.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

      I believe we are on the same page.

      You are right in that the competency and understanding of technology lies disproportionately outside the company (with vendors, service providers or even as concepts).

      You are also right that company needs to understand the technology in order to push for real value.

      Taking these two together, you will see the reason for the title of the article. Maritime and Offshore companies need to invest in business IT teams who will, one, advise Boards and Senior Managements on which of the plethora of available technologies are suitable and appropriate; and two, work with the company’s Business, Technical, Operations and Finance teams to evaluate and induct high RoI, fit-for-purpose, sustainable solutions that will have a positive effect on revenue and productivity.

      I believe we need to do this asap.

  2. It is all very well and good spruiking the technology and being ready for it to come, that is very nice, the thing that needs to be really part of the technology aspect is having a team of people who are able to work together to ensure that the goal to be achieved is achieved. Build a team that is happy, they will then go the extra yard to achieve whatever technology is brought in or they are part of developing, a happy team is a team that works together, a miserable team will only drag the business down and the results will show and I think you know this to be true.

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