Enabling all that seemed impossible until yesterday and this is what technology is all about. Harnessing this very idea with a vision of creating seamless end to end technology solutions for shipping companies is the goal of Hanseaticsoft. Alexander Buchmann, CEO, Hanseaticsoft shares his journey and vision, in conversation with Sea News:
How did it all start? Share your journey to the new beginning.
I started the company in 2009. Before this, I was working with several ship management companies where we worked on in-house software development they needed. Those were good times –2005 to 2009, when these companies had a lot to do and were making good money.
Over time, we were doing a great deal of development and our work had started to get noticed by industry people. Rumours spread across shipping companies that our company had good solutions to increase efficiency and save time.
It was in 2009 that it occurred to me that I should start my own new company and that’s exactly what I did. I started Hanseaticsoft and developed a management solution for shipping companies that is completely cloud-based, Cloud Fleet Manager – something that was pretty new at the time.
This is how we started and grew one client after another. We grew organically i.e. we were self-funding everything and then over the years we continuously grew bigger, with more clients. In 2016-17, several companies showed an interest in buying us.
In 2017, we established a partnership with Lloyd’s Register who became a shareholder. This paved the way for us to grow internationally. Most of our clients were in Germany and Europe. Now, we are also doing a lot of work in Asia.
Your company is known for its specialized solutions. Tell us something about that.
We specialize in helping companies optimise the management of their entire fleet, automate their processes, improve their communications, increase their business performance, improve operational efficiencies and drive down costs.
We are developing products in all the key areas of ship management, so that our company becomes a one-stop shop for all solutions. With our solution Cloud Fleet Manager, we are offering shipping companies a central collaboration and information platform, with all employees in the office and at sea using the same data source.
The software suite comprises more than 25 applications including; Purchase, Inspections & Audits, Schedule & Agents, Crewing, Charter, Risk Assessment, and Maintenance. Since all our modules are completely cloud-based, they are accessible through any web browser. There is no need to buy any additional hardware and it works without any installation.
So, it is very easy for clients to use. We specialize in providing the easiest user-experience possible.
Current trends in the market are very different, given the COVID-19 Situation. How and in what ways do you perceive it from your company’s perspective?
The main trend today is ensuring your software is accessible from anywhere – and that means having cloud-based software. This makes it possible for people to work in tandem, even across locations, and have the same experience as if they were sitting together in the same office.
If we talk of the impact of COVID-19 on our company – it wouldn’t be a gray picture. We are doing a lot of home office work. For us, it was more like sending people home and getting the work done through the cloud. So, for us it was not a huge impact. We could stay at home and still share solutions and updates for our clients.
Comparing the Cloud-based services to the on-premises solutions, what are your observations? Please share.
With cloud-based, you have a kind of service contract which means you are renting software. The advantage of this is you don’t have to buy any hardware, and you don’t have to pay any license fee or have to employ additional IT-staff to take care of data-bases or servers. In addition, you automatically get all the latest updates.
The difference with a solution that is locally installed (on-premises) is that you buy the software, install it on the server, but you have to take care of regularly maintaining and updating it.
If you only receive updates on a yearly basis or twice a year, this can pose a threat of breakdown, if anything goes wrong. Another area that demands additional expenditure is an expert to ensure the security. This can be a lot of work, a lot of maintenance and then there are the security concerns.
In our case, being in the cloud is so much more secure. The hardware is maintained by Microsoft and they have very strict cybersecurity measures in place. We release new enhancements to the system almost daily which automatically update all respective modules. Being in the cloud is also much more secure as there is no way anyone can break-into the system.
Shipping is a traditional ball game even today. Tell us about your experiences with regard to the early adopters in the traditional shipping markets.
It was very difficult in the beginning. We made presentations and people were showing interest but they were not ready to make the first move.
We were lucky because we were talking to a lot of companies and we eventually found some people that believed in our idea and we had our first customer – professionals and young fleet managers that understood that we were addressing certain challenges shipping companies are facing. Once we started to collaborate with these everything started to move forward and we engineered solutions based on their specific requirements. Other industry people saw that we were providing solutions to meet their challenges and they too became interested in our software.
However, it is true that the shipping industry is very traditional and initially it was difficult because there were other competitors who could provide solutions that are cheaper. As it is a traditional market, price made a lot of difference. Often people fail to realize that they are actually paying more because of the overall cost of maintenance and other hidden expenses.
However, now that most of us are confined to working online and people are increasingly using online tools to work, we believe the shipping industry is catching up and the trend is changing, rapidly, which is good news for companies like ours.
What has the Lloyd’s register investment meant to the company?
Like any other new venture, we were viewed as a startup for the first few years. Even when we were growing fast, and we had some good clients, the big companies were hesitant. They were all waiting and watching, seeing whether this company would be able to survive or not. Getting help from Lloyd’s eliminated this issue completely. Companies began to understand that we were there to stay.
Lloyd’s is helping us get global business because they have a huge international network. This especially helped us move to Asia by using their premises in Singapore and Hong Kong. Their support has been very helpful.
Walk us through the details of some of your products like iMarine?
iMarine is not a product of ours but a provider of a cloud-based e-procurement platform which is called SeaProc. We have integrated their system into our Purchase module to ease and streamline the whole purchasing process. Since both our systems are completely cloud-based, this is a perfect fit.
We are constantly looking at integrating other platforms into our system via APIs to make it easier for our clients to use and to enhance usability overall.
For this case, whenever someone wants to buy anything for their vessels using our Purchase module, they can simply access the data provided by iMarine to compare the different options available.
Since there is a seamless connection between our systems, our clients don’t have to switch between solutions but can simply compare offers and initiate the order directly in the Purchase module.
What’s in store for the shipping Industry in the future? Share your insight on new trends in shipping.
I think one of the main topics for the industry is connectivity. Just looking at overall trade volumes, currently about 90% of trade happens with ships but they usually have bad internet connectivity which makes it difficult to really include the fleet in processes and exchange information. And a fast exchange of business-critical data becomes more and more vital to stay competitive. But we see an ongoing trend in the industry of spending a lot on satellite connections, so I think this connectivity issue will change soon.
We are seeing a lot of global net providers trying to provide strong internet connections to shipping companies similar to what is already offered on luxury cruises. And I think we will soon see similar quality of connectivity available for normal trade vessels as well to enable enhanced process connection between office and vessels and the exchange of information in real-time.
Sea News Feature, November 20