Should Liners Invest in Shipping Software Solutions?

Greater efficiency is the top priority of most shipping companies nowadays. With skyrocketing fuel prices and growing market competition, vessel operators are looking for better ways to cut operational expenses while keeping their revenues up. To make this possible, the shipping industry is constantly moving toward greater technological integration to automate various aspects of a shipping process. For this reason, marine software companies have developed various types of shipping software solutions for port and on-ship activities.

Every year, millions of tons of cargoes are being moved by shipping lines on various vessels including RoRo, container, and multipurpose vessels. Moving these goods involves many parties and complex processes. To accommodate the increasing complexities involved in port and vessel operations, hipping software companies have developed maritime software solutions which have greatly increased efficiencies.

For instance, modern merchant vessels use container tracking software to track actual locations of containers and provide their clients real-time view of the actual progress of a container transport process. Automated updates of container and cargo events can be sent to the relevant parties to provide full visibility to them.

Aside from container tracking software, modern shipping lines are also equipped with software applications that help them maximize revenue from each voyage or port call. Voyage calculation software also known as voyage accounting software allows vessel operators to forecast expenses, and revenue they can generate from each shipment and port call. Using this software, operators can make quick calculations of direct cargo related expenses and indirect expenses like fuel expenses, harbor dues, canal fees, and other costs involved in the process. This enables them to manage their cargo mix and simulate the impact contributions of different cargo mixes, port rotations and vessel speeds. Operators can also make simultaneous calculations of costs using different ships and routes and choose transactions they deem to provide the best commercial value.

Cargo safety is always a top priority when transporting containers. To ensure that this is achieved in every trip, operators need to ensure that their container fleet is properly maintained and repaired. With integrated container repair software carriers have full visibility of container damages. Container repair software allows them to quickly authorize and validate repairs, check warranties, identify improper repairs and locations where the equipment is not properly handled. This will ensure that ‘black sheeps’ amongst repair shops.

Integrated shipping software allows shipping companies to increase the efficiency of their operations both on the shore and off. They are available in platforms which can be integrated into a vessel’s existing system without doing any expensive reprogramming. While some marine software solutions can be expensive, operators can easily make back the difference in cost of their investment. However, operators must choose shipping software companies which provide quality shipping software products and after-sales service so that they can benefit most from their investment.

Why Choose Outsourced Over In-House Shipping Software Solution

Over the past two decades, automation of business processes has significantly increased in many industries including aviation, telecommunications, and banking. In shipping, automation has improved business efficiency by simplifying critical operations that require time and expertise. Nowadays, with increasing access to modern technology, it’s not unusual to find a small carrier using cheap off-the-shelf shipping software solutions to streamline and manage its core operations more efficiently. However, there are still quite a number of carriers who prefer bespoke IT systems despite the availability of much cheaper packaged solutions.

There are certain factors that motivate shipping business operators to develop their own IT systems in-house instead of buying cheaper off-the-shelf solutions. One of these is the advantage of having full control of the development processes which allows users to make specific improvements to the original platform as necessary. In addition, In-house platforms have been tailored to exact specifications, which is believed to deliver competitive advantage.

However, while bespoke systems offer full control of operation-specific features, they also require skilled IT staff and programmers to implement necessary upgrades. The fact that technology is rapidly changing means that IT platforms date and become unsupportable after a while. If a shipping business cannot keep up with the pace of change, it will find itself stuck with an obsolete technology which cannot support newer IT platforms. In addition, investing in a customized platform to automate only a single segment of shipping operation (e.g. a single segment of a terminal), is not worth the cost of the investment, which is significantly higher than buying off-the-shelf shipping software which can be customized to carry out various functions.

The following are some of the most prominent benefits of using off-the-shelf or packaged shipping software:

1. Price. Buying packaged software is calculated to be 10 to 50 times cheaper compared to developing an in-house IT system.

2. Flexibility. Modern packaged shipping software incorporate built-in switching options which allows operators to customize application to perform various tasks without doing any expensive reprogramming.

3. Upgrade options – Packaged software provides upgrade solutions to keep pace with fast changes in technology to make sure that users are always working from tried and tested, up-to-date, and well-supported platforms.

4. Guarantee. Customized or in-house systems do not offer test-runs prior to installation, and the end-product is not revealed until it has been delivered. Off-the-shelf solution allows you to use a system for a certain period to see if it delivers what you expect before you actually buy and install it into your existing IT infrastructure.

5. Efficiency. Packaged solutions are more cost-effective, require less resources, and deliver long-term solutions that can be customized to handle specific requirements of a shipping business.

While off-the-shelf shipping software offer a lot more benefits both in cost of investment and scope of features, accessibility to technology has significantly increased the number of software developers in the marketplace, many of which are not reputable. Carriers should be careful in choosing a supplier by checking their capability, reliability, and financial stability. After all, it’s not wise to buy from a company who’s not going to be around after two or three years, leaving you without support in a case of system failure.

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