Greater ChinaOperationsTech

Wallem boss Coles lashes maritime technology vendors

Frank Coles, the new CEO of Wallem Group, has lashed maritime vendors across the world for failing to properly make the case for going green, digital or automated.

Coles, who joined shipmanagement giant Wallem two months ago from simulator provider Transas, took to LinkedIn to vent his anger at how technology developments are being stymied in shipping as vendors fail to sell their products properly.

“The fog of noise from the vendors make (sic) it impossible for most users in maritime to appreciate the truth, the facts or the value of what is being promoted,” Coles wrote.

The CEO, who worked at telecommunications provider Inmarsat before Transas, wrote on the social media platform: “Technology solutions are being wasted in the maritime industry because vendors and manufacturers don’t solve the right problems, don’t ask the right questions and don’t know the right things to produce, or how to sell or promote it.”

Coles claimed shipping was seeing an endless delivery of fragmented applications that only address a part of the solution, instead of enterprise solutions.

Widgets and proprietary systems abound, so it is not unusual for an owner or operator to have multiple products and applications to try and run the ship safely and efficiently, Coles observed.

“Owners are told go unmanned, or automated, or green and don’t worry it will save you money. But I am sorry we cannot show you how, we won’t share the pain. Vendors do not know how to present the proof, or are not prepared to have skin in the game,” Coles wrote.

Lena Göthberg, host of the Shipping Podcast, questioned Coles on LinkedIn whether or not he was preaching open source via this message to which he replied: “[A]bsolutely open source alongside an enterprise approach. But more than anything, clarity and truth.”

Coles, the salesman turned manager, then went on to stress: “I don’t want vendors who can’t see the big picture.”

Coles has wasted little time stamping his authority at the 116-year-old Wallem Group since touching down in Hong Kong a couple of months ago. Announcements about a series of new appointments are due soon, Splash understands.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. Sounds like some valid criticisms and technology vendors should take notice of this type of feedback. I would also add though that many shipping companies probably need a CTO to map out their own technology strategy as is the case in telecoms for example.

  2. I do agree to a certain extent with Mr Coles. However, we should also look at the other side of the coin in order to see the bigger picture. We are referring to a market where technology improvements have been vitamins instead of painkillers for a reason and this is not just the technology providers. So although i can see the validity to a certain extent as i mentioned of the comments made by Mr Coles i think the whole market needs to improve itself in different ways in order to move things forward on the technology front.

  3. A very valid point but didn’t he build a career at ‘maritime technology vendors’??? Easy to criticise when you’re on the other side of the fence.

    1. Helllloooo, this is exactly why as poacher turned gamekeeper I am able to comment.

      I built a career in maritime, as a Master Mariner, operator, technology CEO and now as CEO of a maritime solutions business, where ship management is only one part of the services we provide.

      Every step of the way I told my sales force, my engineers, my marketing .. we need to build solutions that are solving the problems the market wants solved. I spoke about enterprise solutions not fragmentation as a technology CEO, and I spoke about the right solutions … so nothing new.

      The technology industry in maritime is generally weak in sales and marketing messaging. The solutions fragmented and not connected. It was the same then and it is the same now. Except now I get to choose what we buy… probably not VESON, as you don’t get it.

  4. I wont say I wrote you so a couple of weeks back. Wrong questions asked, and wrong products developed. Vendors are trying to create a market, without understanding the needs of shipping. Until they “put skin in” and invest time before money, to understand our day to day problems and challenges, no useful products let alone marketable ones will be created. At the moment they are just trying to create app after app, hoping that one will become the Uber or Whatsapp or Snapchat of shipping. The fact that they spend so many resources on creating, and not spend time on understanding, is the living proof that IT Vendors are on the hunt for the next Shipping App Unicorn.

  5. its takes 2 to tango (or mess up the dance) – i see the lines equally to blame as any technology vendors in this area. Why every other industry has woken up to tech when the maritime industry is firmly rooted in the 1960’s is not the fault of tech companies! Shipping companies don’t’ want to thin or engage with vendors, they want a finished product presented, tough when the supplying industry doesn’t understand you and you won’t help the tech companies understand their business for fear of giving away their own trade secrets. Personally i think the first shipping company to break cover and properly engage with the tech industry and not screw it up will make big gains.

  6. But why no alerts/opposition comes during the deliberation process at IMO ? Application of technology as choice wouldn’t raise these issues. But most Technology applications are getting in to mandatory regulations. It’s a case of major surgery forced on a healthy seafarer/owner and patient is in recovery room awaiting a day of discharge/relief promised. The next is idea of Autonomous ships . It’s a surgery of Central Nervous System.

  7. There are thousands to say but the lines are clear as crystal, and valid.

    Manufacturers develop the products in accordance with the standards but also challenge to create more advanced solutions in competitive environment which brings complexity. The concern of maritime industry remains to be safe and economic voyages. Integrated designs are absolutely most effective but comes up at higher cost, and time for training to benefit best performance.

    Let’s don’t limit the creativity of manufacturers and remain open to developments while shipmanagers/owners are free to take own decision but better to consider strengthening IT culture to steer effectively.

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