Maritime CEO

ShipServ: Shipping’s ‘seismic shift’ towards e-commerce


London: The founder and ceo of ShipServ, Paul Ostergaard, tells Maritime CEO readers today shipping has seen a “seismic shift in attitude” towards e-commerce.
Describing itself as the “e-marketplace for the shipping industry”, ShipServ was founded 13 years ago, just as the so-called dot-com bubble burst.
However, from this shaky start ShipServ has grown and grown, merging along the way with Hong Kong-based iShip Exchange in 2003. Currently it has around 7,500 vessels from some 175 owners, managers and yards trading with more than 40,000 registered suppliers on its platform.
Ostergaard is quick to refute Maritime CEO claims that shipping is one of the last bastions to truly embrace the internet age.
While the explosion of dot-com companies in the early 2000s and the subsequent demise of many of those companies – LevelSeas, SetFair,etc – did indeed lead many to falsely believe that shipping would never adopt the internet, Ostergaard says the industry is now very much up to speed with the digital age.
“Shipping has a number of the essential characteristics to wholly embrace the internet,” he says, explaining that it is global, has pretty much a single standard language and can be commoditised making it easier to adopt technology.
“Don’t forget,” he adds, “that the container industry was the first global industry to adopt the embryonic Electronic Data Interchange standards in the 1980s so we are no strangers to pioneering technology.” 
The biggest issue and one that slowed adoption, Ostergaard says, has been a lack of trust and more specifically an initial lack of trust mechanisms.
Looking back, Ostergaard can see three distinct ages for shipping and doing business over the internet. First, there was the initial connectivity stage – getting buyers and suppliers joined up. This was followed by the age of curating and using information. “Now we are in the age of trust and ensuring that we do business with the right supplier,” he maintains.
B2C companies such as Amazon and eBay have led the way with trust mechanisms such as reviews but these have been slow to make it into B2B marketplaces, as the decision-making cycle is longer.
Now, however, the Danish national feels the industry trusts e-commerce.
Away from e-commerce the internet has fundamentally and irrevocably changed the nature of the shipping industry, Ostergaard says citing media examples, and also Rightship – “now an integral part of the vetting business” and VesselsValue which he says “has changed forever the way ships are valued”.
“Add to the mix the rapid adoption of social media across the board and I think it’s clear that shipping is no longer a last bastion,” he says firmly.
In terms of future business plans, the e-commerce ceo says, “We will continue to develop and evolve solutions that allow maritime buyers to find the best suppliers easily, trade efficiently and build trusted relationships.”
Further tools will be rolled out to match the right supplier with the right buyer.
“As a lot of purchasing is carried out through the use of purchasing systems, we will make it easy to source directly from the system,” Ostergaard says.
“Purchasing direct from the ship is another area we think we can help to make more efficient and we are combining our various onboard products into a single offering to make this easier.”
Finally, ShipServ will also continue to develop its Supplier Insight Report, which was launched last year and allows suppliers to measure their entire sales funnel via ShipServ, giving real-time measurability.  [18/02/13]

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