Frank Coles has a vision. The Wallem Group CEO wants to enhance transparency in the ship management business and change the business model through the power of technology.
“The lack of transparency is about how the business is conducted and how managers are paid,” he explains. “As a consolidator in the old business model, a ship manager was seen as a middle manager of any services provided. This created a lack of transparency in actual costs to operate. Owners should pay a fair rate for value and recognize the expertise provided by ship managers.”
A new model is needed, Coles says: “The relationship between an owner and a manager should move to much more of a consultancy where a fair rate is paid for the expertise and risk that the manager takes on. As we progress towards a technology-based service, where analytics and performance can be more readily monitored, it should be possible to show the value the manager is bringing in decisions, analysis, predictions and overall risk management.”
Having previously run companies like Transas, Inmarsat Maritime and Globe Wireless, Coles certainly knows the technology business. So when Wallem came calling two years ago, he jumped at the opportunity.
“The opportunity to lead a prestigious and diversified company like Wallem was something I could not pass up,” he commented. “With the increased industry focus on efficiency, safety and the environment, providing quality shipping services, crews and technical support is going to be critical. Wallem understands the needs and expectations of owners and clients and is well-placed to be a leader in the future of maritime operations support.”
Wallem, for its part, was looking for a new leader – someone who could guide the more than century-old company in a fast-changing, increasingly technological age. “We are delighted that Frank has agreed to join us,” stated Chairman Nigel Hill. “The shipping world is grappling with a wide range of challenges and opportunities at present. We are confident that we have found the right person to ensure that Wallem stays in the forefront of delivering first-class maritime solutions to its customers, as it has done throughout its long history.”
It was a marriage made in heaven.
In 1903 a Norwegian shipbroker named Haakon Wallem started a shipping company in Shanghai, which he aptly named the Wallem Group. Two years later he bought his first ship, the SS Oscar II, a 4,750-dwt sail-steamer built in 1893. By 1908 the company was managing two sister ships in the coal trade along the Chinese coast, making Wallem – in effect – the first third-party ship manager in the world.
Today, it’s not only the oldest but one of the largest. With roots deep in China and headquarters in Hong Kong, it’s survived the Boxer Rebellion, the collapse of the Qing Dynasty, the Warlord Era, the Japanese War and the Cultural Revolution, all the while expanding its business in Asia and opening new offices throughout the region.
Two years ago, for example, Wallem’s Singapore office celebrated its 60th anniversary. What began as a small office offering ship agency services is now a hub – not only for Wallem but the world – with the Singapore office providing not just ship agency services but also ship management, technical management and commercial services, supported by a global network of 47 offices in 18 countries.
China remains a big market for Wallem. Among other activities, it manages cruise ships, naval vessels, project cargoes, heavy lift and breakbulk projects. In addition, the main Shanghai office has a technical team responsible for oversight of newbuilding projects as well as drydock operations. Wallem is also the only foreign shipping company to operate a Seafarer Manning Operation in China with rights to recruit, train and deploy Chinese mariners worldwide.
All told, the company operates in 18 countries and employs about 7,000 mariners and 1,000 shore-based personnel in 47 offices. Its reach extends well beyond China and Asia, and its portfolio of services has similarly expanded to meet the changing needs of its clients.
In addition to ship agency and ship management, Wallem offers a multitude of related functions such as Asset Management, which includes functions like lifecycle management, shipbroking and recycling along with commercial and technical management and newbuilding oversight. Crewing and Training are two other vital services. Wallem operates eight training centers in China, the Philippines, India and Ukraine that include course accreditation by local authorities and flag states along with a curriculum designed to meet and exceed industry standards.
Safety Management & Assurance, Technology Consultancy and Support Services – like procurement and port operations – are other offerings in an ever-growing list, all part of the company’s goal to be “the leading provider of technology-driven maritime solutions in a customer-centric and transparent manner.”
A New Strategy
Upon assuming the reins in October 2018, Coles wasted no time in outlining his new strategy, having spent the previous six months putting it together. It was based on three fundamentals: supporting quality through safety, transparency through technology and service through support.
Six months later the company updated its corporate identity and branding to mark “a profound shift in its service offering that will harness the latest technology to improve asset management transparency and efficiency in a program intended to transform the relationship between owners and their ships.” The new identity and logo were visible symbols of the company’s ambition to establish a fundamentally new approach to collaborating with vessel owners, enabling them to extract maximum value from their vessels.
It also announced the introduction of BASSnet™ Fleet Management Systems as the backbone for its vision to be the leading provider of technology-driven maritime services. BASSnet™ was a way to standardize ship processes and represented a total solution for maintenance, safety, operational and financial management services on a fleet-wide basis.
In so doing Wallem became the first ship management company to implement a complete suite of integrated software without customization, defying the myth that ship operations were somehow different and required multiple layers of overlapping technology.
“Having run several maritime software companies and considering the complexities of operations, compliance and the regulatory environment,” Coles commented, “I was keen to not reinvent the wheel. We have chosen to install a cloud-based solution without customization. Exactly how digitalization is supposed to be done. Offering transparency, analytics and business intelligence is the way forward for high-performance fleet management, and implementing a complete enterprise solution from BASSnet™ will allow us to integrate the power of big data with our business processes.”
The next move came in July 2019 when the company migrated to the new Agency System, a cloud-based software designed to reduce paperwork and simplify workflows in its ship agency business. Simplifying documentation and actions required in port calls enabled Wallem’s agents to enhance service quality and consistency for customers worldwide. It was an immediate hit.
A month later it deployed SEDNA, a collaborative platform providing team inboxes allowing staff to work together on incoming messages and increase responsiveness to customers. Integrated with the Agency System, it formed a key component of the company’s broader digital transformation aimed at streamlining interactions with customers and improving transparency through the intelligent use of technology.
In the new millennial age of shipping and as a former ship master himself, Coles recognizes that seafarers must undergo continual training to stay abreast of the advances in technology and automation onboard.
“Technology is only half the story,” he says. “For the technology to support and empower it must be used as it was designed, by someone properly trained. So the processes must follow the technology. The user must learn a new process, and the old systems removed. Poorly trained users and new technology on old systems are worse than nothing at all.”
Training must go above and beyond the regulatory mandates, Coles adds. Captains are overburdened with too many responsibilities already. Training other crew members to take on more operational responsibilities will ensure that voyages sail more efficiently and profitably for owners.
The mayhem wrought by the coronavirus has changed the world and the shipping industry forever, but Coles sees it as a possible “Black Swan” moment to change for the better.
He reminds us that while the trend is towards greater automation, these systems must be overseen by highly trained and competent operators. Moreover, the notion that unmanned vessels are just around the corner is more debatable now considering the complexity of new engines, fuels and environmental challenges – particularly in highly concentrated urban regions where shipping thrives.
“Digitalization today is a toxic combination of overhyped capabilities, confused customers and fragmented implementation,” Coles says. “Multiple levels of redundancy for propulsion and safety systems are required before removing any crews can be considered.”
Changing the business model for not just ship management but shipping itself goes beyond leveraging fuel efficiency or smart routing or just-in-time arrivals. It’s about reinventing ships as a green node on an extended value chain.
Coles is quite precise in his thinking as he strives to change attitudes from the top of the industry to the bottom. He reminds us that “Shipping is not special. But if it wants to be, it must let go of the past and reinvent itself.”
Tony Munoz is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Maritime Executive.
A massive fire broke out at the Port of Beirut on Thursday, incinerating a warehouse full of tires and oil within the port’s free zone. The same area was heavily damaged in the ammonium nitrate explosion that leveled the central port area and the adjacent waterfront on August 4. According to Lebanon’s civil defense agency, […]
Over the course of the past five days, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority arranged a medical intervention for an injured aboard a freighter in the Indian Ocean. On Saturday evening, the Spliethoff tweendecker Dolfijngracht called for assistance while under way about 1,000 nauical miles off the coast of Western Australia. A crewmember had sustained serious […]
The naval forces of the US and Bahrain recently staged a joint force training exercise which showcased the interoperability between coalition warships operating I the Arabian Gulf. Coalition Task Force Sentinel executed combined exercise Sentinel Shield supporting Sentry and Sentinel patrols in the coalition’s area of operations. The guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones and […]
DSV Belgium has solid experience in the transport of pharmaceutical products for different customers. With a pharma hub based at Brussels Airport a lot of experience and know-how has been built up over the years. Last weekend, the forwarder handled one hundred million mouth masks, an important milestone for its Belgian organisation that has put […]
The U-Freight Group (UFL), with its considerable involvement in eCommerce logistics, says that the latest statistics showing that global e-commerce sales hit $25.6 trillion in 2018 are a further vindication of its decision to enter this sector of the international freight market several years ago. The latest available estimates, up 8% from 2017, were recently […]
The UK government’s new post-Brexit tariff regime will result in both winners and losers. The new regime is set to replace the European Union’s Common External Tariff from the end of the Brexit Transition Period on December 31, 2020. The UK’s commitment to the ongoing Brexit process and ending the UK’s transition from EU membership […]
Astral Aviation has increased its intra-African network with cargo freighters during the pandemic. While there has been a reduction in capacity to, from, and within Africa, which has been caused by a stoppage of passenger flights and limited frequencies on freighter aircraft, Astral Aviation continues to operate cargo freighters from its Nairobi hub to 13 destinations […]
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a Marine Accident Brief about an accident that occurred on April 15, 2019, involving the towing vessel DeJeanne Maria which struck the end of a submerged dredge pipeline while pushing two spud barges to the Gulf of Mexico. The incident occurred on the Mississippi River in Pass […]
With close to 100 daily cargo flights operated to a destination network spanning more than 65 cities across six continents, Emirates SkyCargo is delivering essential supplies and commodities to people around the world. The air cargo carrier is currently operating 11 Boeing 777 freighter aircraft, each with a capacity to transport about 100 tonnes of […]
Best known as a leading passenger airport serving Germany’s most populated federal state North Rhine-Westphalia, Düsseldorf has become transformed into a vital distribution point, during the COVID 19 pandemic, for medical equipment and other life-saving goods, mostly from China. Gerton Hulsman, managing director of cargo operations, reports that the handling teams are working hard to […]
Operators can continue to use pilots and other crew members who have unable to comply with certain training, recent experience, testing, and checking requirements due to the COVID-19 outbreak in support of essential operations. Additionally, this Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) provides regulatory relief to certain persons and pilot schools unable to meet duration and […]
Global commercial aviation charter company Albion Aviation Group is reporting that it is seeing a considerable uptake in its professional cargo broker training courses from the current global pandemic crisis and surge in charter demand. “We have completed a number webinar courses for a whole of host of companies, looking to manage their own cargo […]
Emirates SkyCargo has expanded its weekly scheduled cargo flight operations to cover 75 destinations across six continents. Through its wider reach, Emirates SkyCargo is able to transport essential commodities and other urgently needed cargo more rapidly across the world, allowing exporters and importers across markets to benefit from direct access to widebody cargo capacity. Some […]
The First DP2, Twin-Hulled SOV in the World, NB72 Groene Wind met the Sea on September 29. 2020 in Yalova, Turkey. The Groene Wind will be directly chartered to Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy for the maintenance of the Rentel and Mermaid & Seastar (known as SeaMade) offshore wind farms in Belgium. This is the first DP2, […]
Callan Marine is serving as the prime contractor to the Texas Department of Transportation for a maintenance dredging project located at the Bolivar Ferry Terminal, in Galveston, Texas. Work began in May and is estimated to be complete in late July 2020. The project consists of the removal of 600,000 cubic yards of material and […]
Network Airline Management and TAAG Angola Airlines are pleased to announce the renewal of their long-term freighter aircraft contract by an additional 12 months, sealing an ongoing partnership for the foreseeable future. Operating a regular weekly scheduled service from Liege, Belgium, to the capital of Angola, Luanda, Network Airline Management provides a Boeing 747-400F aircraft […]