Blockchain-enabled logistics tool boosts maritime efficiency

Blockchain-enabled logistics tool boosts maritime efficiency

Swiss company Singular Point has an ambition to re-shape and improve the way shipping and chartering activities are conducted. The company has developed a single platform blockchain-enabled solution to support the industry’s efforts in delivering efficient operations. VPO Global spoke with CEO and product manager of Singular Point, Mr Antonio Albiero about the new blockchain enabler named MARiS.

Many shipping companies today are implementing digitalisation strategies to gain greater insight into operational efficiencies. The advancing Internet of Things (IoT) and increasing capabilities of sensors provide opportunities for companies to collect high-quality data on ship performance and transfer this information between ship and shore to step-up fleet performance and gain competitive advantage.

However, one challenge for shipping companies is dealing with the logistics of managing often overwhelming quantities of data that will typically come from multiple sources. Usually, this data is raw and requires manipulation to turn it into information that provides value for the user. According to Swiss company Singular Point, the market is becoming increasingly competitive and data transport and translation into useful, meaningful information, is a challenge.

A blockchain-enabled solution

To tackle these logistical difficulties, Antonio Albiero, CEO and product manager of Singular Point and his team have developed MARiS, a blockchain-enabled solution that assists shipping and chartering companies with developing their business activities under one single platform. MARiS focuses on turning data into value and eliminating all data boundaries.

The solution, which can be deployed on the cloud or on site, is based on an architecture that facilitates integration of all data, regardless of source and size, to present useful information to a company that can be used to improve management and business performance. For instance, MARiS can compare simulations of different voyages across each vessel over any timeframe to provide a comparison of performance technology and overall business, helping users to analyse the economic potential of their business.

Thanks to the configurable interface, users can adapt whatever they need to into the system, according to their specific requirements. This means that users can inject their own logic into the solution without being constrained by external factors. “Our customers benefit from fully mapped data process, extending business model, directly by themselves without having to rely on the vendor,” Mr Albiero confirmed to us.

MARiS also helps to decrease reaction time by providing alerts in minutes, hours, or days timescales. Users can obtain results in real-time from any device including mobile phones, laptops or iPads. Any device that has a web browser can access MARiS. For industrial applications, MARiS has been designed over an Application Program Interface (API) concept so every transaction, every layer of data and exchange of data can be entered manually by the user or generated by IoT of the industry device onboard the vessel.

Adapting to change

According to Mr Albiero, the value of solutions today lies in their ability to adapt to change. “Software and platforms today need to be able to stand the test of time because the investment is high.” He believes that users need the ability to take back the ownership of their processes, have full control of their operations, while enabling them to evolve and keep up with shipping’s digital transformation. MARiS’ open platform with flexible architecture gives it the tools to adapt to change and evolve alongside the industry. Mr Albiero explained, “If in five months’ time a customer chooses to add further IoT information that was not part of the data model in the beginning, they can simply do so. We designed the architecture this way specifically to address the IoT industrial sensor problem so the user can be as free as possible to connect all these devices that will change in the market from now to the next five or ten years.” This means that any changes that a user wants to embed into the system can be done immediately without having to upgrade or wait months for it to take effect.

Mr Albiero believes this flexible and evolving type of platform will be of particular value to customers that want to contribute information and receive feedback from multiple marketplace blockchains, not just one that the vendor has selected. The value of this solution is that customers may decide to contribute to more than one blockchain network, which Mr Albiero sees as a likely future scenario.

The hidden effect of digitalisation

One problem with logistics solutions today is that they try to standardise operations which, “forces companies to perform and behave as everyone else.” Mr Albiero believes that often with high-tech logistics solutions, customers have to decide which business model presented by the solution is nearest to their own, which can limit the opportunity to adapt at a later stage. This, in some way, gives way to the loss of a company’s singularity. MARiS goes against the mainstream, delivering a platform that allows users to choose exactly how they want to use the logistics tool, enabling them to inject their own logic into it. According to Mr Albiero, users can represent and expand their data model as necessary, ensuring greater transparency between different business processes and functions. “We are giving customers at least the possibility to choose whatever they want to standardise or not standardise. With current systems, they cannot do this.”

Meeting IMO 2020

The next big regulation to hit the maritime industry will enter into force in just under 5 months’ time. The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO’s) 0.5 cent global cap on sulphur emissions is expected to bring additional costs for shipowners thanks to a spike in fuel prices, while uncertainty around availability of compliant and compatible fuel blends creates an additional challenge. Mr Albiero confirmed to us that Singular Point is aiming to lessen the burden of these challenges by providing a function that allows customers to access current global bunker prices on a spot and forward basis, helping users to identify the most cost-efficient and straightforward location to purchase bunkers.

“Bunker consumption in 2020 will have a critical impact on voyage profitability. Our next step is to look at how customers can decrease bunker consumption, taking into account voyage conditions such as weather. We want to tackle the data that we currently harness and implement suggested route options based on weather forecasts.”

The company will also focus on crew safety and welfare throughout 2019 and 2020 with a plan to identify ways to integrate safety management and seafarer wellbeing into its solution.

To help users get started, Singular Point offers its own ‘MARiS University’ that provides a certification path to help customers understand the MARiS architecture. It is not essential as the platform is sold as an off-the-shelf solution, but Mr Albiero notes that it can help to empower customers and configure the system without external assistance.

Singular Point confirmed to us that it has several customers trialling the platform and expects to grow to 800 users within the next three to four months.