Maritime CEO

Martek Marine: Shipping must ditch ‘reluctance to innovation’


Rotherham: A recent poll on our Maritime CEO LinkedIn group showed emphatically that shipping has failed to fully embrace e-commerce. Similarly it has been slow to harness the full potential of digital technology, argues Paul Luen, the ceo of tech firm Martek Marine.

“The shipping industry is at a crossroads,” Luen says, “and needs to choose between continued reluctance to innovation and the potential advantages digital technology can provide.”

Communication between different devices is increasingly becoming more important in business and everyday life, he points out, citing examples such as vending machines that order stock themselves, cars with wiper blades that start automatically when it rains and headlights that turn on when it gets dark.

There are many ways that this technology can be used in the shipping industry, Luen argues, including onboard systems updating superintendents of vessel costs in real-time; testing devices whose results are recorded by a central computer onboard and sent automatically to vetting systems and PSC to show that regulation is being met or exceeded; and ordering systems which monitor food levels and automatically order produce for delivery at the next port.

“In an industry struggling to regain profitability, there are huge gains to be made by using technology to increase efficiency and profit margins, and we want to lead this,” he makes clear.

The big project everybody at Martek is currently very excited about, probably the biggest in the company’s history, is the launch of its iECDIS system in the next few months.

Luen says that as well as design advantages over other ECDIS systems, Martek is also offering leasing as an alternative to outright purchase. “This is something we believe will help enable early adoption,” he says. The leasing option takes the emphasis off the customer to maintain and update the device – Martek will maintain it at regular intervals, replace it if it breaks through wear and tear, and upgrade it when new devices are released.

Among the advantages of iECDIS is it is the only system to have a patented inbuilt GSM modem, allowing Notices to Mariners and monthly chart updates to be downloaded at sea and an overlay automatically applied with alerts if changes affect routes. The GSM modem can also take weather and piracy updates on the move and give “automatic instant seasonal route planning”, essentially advising the safest and quickest route based on the geopolitical/piracy situation and weather and tidal patterns for your route.

iECDIS also has eight ports built in where most systems only have four.

“Shipowners want cost-effective products that work better, faster, and more accurately. Everything we do is based on this premise,” Luen stresses.

Luen co-founded Martek Marine in the UK in 2000. What started out with an initial investment of £6,000 now has annual revenues of £5.5m.

The success of Martek is not too surprising, given Luen's lifelong business acumen. He first went into business when he was seven years old when he picked blackberries from wasteland near his home and sold them to customers outside local shops, undercutting them by 3p per pound.  [30/04/13]


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