The shipping industry has been sailing on some rough tides and is still facing challenging times ahead as the industry players gear up for ever stringent regulations. Having that in mind, it seems that the time has come for a stronger unity between the relevant stakeholders. As a result, it may be the time to do some networking, but how?
On the one hand, the old-fashion ways of making connections may take a while, whereas on the other, the social network boom seems to have created more clutter than relevant content. The answer might lie in a social network tailored for shipping industry players only.
World Maritime News staff spoke to Mr. Eirik Fosse, Partner & CEO at ShippingCluster, a free global shipping industry network that launched two months ago, to find out more about the platform. Shippingcluster launched in May this year and already close to 1000 maritime professionals and 150 companies from more than 30 countries have joined this industry initiative.
WMN: How would you describe the turnout so far, have the numbers met your expectations? Can you tell us something more on how it all works?
Eirik Fosse, Partner & CEO at ShippingCluster said:
“We are overwhelmed by the positive feedback and the response from the industry. We are especially proud of the international spread to more than 30 countries.
Shippingcluster is by invitation only, to ensure high quality data, but at the cost of slowing down the network growth.
However, we believe people are tired of all the information noise, and that the industry needs a clutter free industry network without all the unrelated noise. To us it is not about the numbers and the volume, but realizing a highly attractive industry arena – making it easy to find and be found!
We are therefore amazed at how fast the network is growing in spite of the invitation constraints and that we are in the midst of the summer vacation season.”
Is the membership exclusively reserved for maritime companies/professionals or can those indirectly involved, like the media, join as well?
“The maritime shipping industry is the world’s most international industry, serving more than 90% of the global trade; yet the industry is missing a global network that connects all the players.
Shippingcluster is a social professional network dedicated to the global maritime industry. Everyone within the industry can join. It is a true online industry cluster, connecting all the players; from core operational players, to the service providers, to maritime training institutions and maritime students.
Shippingcluster is free but by invitation only, to keep the spammers out. In order to join one needs to be invited by existing members or go to www.shippingcluster.com/contact and ask to be invited. The only selection criteria is that you are related to the maritime industry.”
What are the direct and indirect benefits your clients stand to obtain by joining your network?
“Better industry visibility and connectivity – without all the unrelated noise. Shippingcluster is all about “Find and be found”.
Today shipping is highly dependent on Google free-text search to find companies and services, which is not always efficient. Similarly, amongst the hundreds of millions of users on LinkedIn, only a fraction is relevant to shipping.
On Shippingcluster people and companies can easily set up industry profiles, add relevant industry keywords, and quickly be found by the greater community without all the noise.
Company profiles on Shippingcluster work as extensions to existing company websites, and make companies and related services more visible to the greater industry community.
In most other industries Google does not play such a central role in connecting industry players and creating visibility. For example, within the real-estate/housing industry most people use specialized web sites, enabling them to search structurally using industry terminology like for example location, price range, size, etc. This is what our industry is missing.
On Shippingcluster, people can search the maritime industry in a similar way, enabling members to search structurally using maritime terminology, removing all the unrelated noise.”
Since the shipping industry relies heavily on a personal/live type of communication, in your opinion, can social networks replace the personal touch?
“The maritime world is getting more complicated, and social media technologies represent new and exciting opportunities. Shipping has always been very network-driven – the rolodex of contacts. For the next generation of professionals, this rolodex is the social media.
We don’t feel social networks will replace the personal touch, but we do believe it extends one’s ability to maintain and stay in touch with an ever growing professional network.”
What has been the feedback so far and how do you obtain it from your clients? Have they already started using your platform as a means of conducting business, or at least making first contacts?
“The positive feedback and interest we have received is just fantastic, here are just a few examples:
- “The Shippingcluster is a fantastic idea – where has this been all these years? This will be a great way to connect with others and also post our open positions”
- “Creating a social network exclusively for the shipping and maritime industry is a GREAT idea. I look forward to being part of the Shippingcluster community”
- “It’s great to have Shippingcluster into our life and work and the Windows 8 style web interface, just love it!”
- “Finally!!! :) I was looking forward for quite some time to see this kind of initiative. A friend of mine told me about this and I can’t wait till he invites me.
The idea of a global maritime network really thrills people and people are registering their personal maritime profiles and their company profiles, enjoying free profiling and industry exposure.
Students are also joining, stating that very few maritime initiatives include them as a group.”
Could you share a success story to which Shippingcluster directly contributed to (new contract/contact)?
“The first story that pops into mind is one that was shared with us right after we launched Shippingcluster, where a new member from Shanghai was very enthusiastic about how he on the first day reconnected through Shippingcluster with a business acquaintance he had briefly met at a trade fair a couple of years earlier. They were both on LinkedIn as well, but due to all the noise they had never found a common arena in which to meet.
Your website mentions the introduction of more advanced industry services, like the messaging feature, as well as integration of 3rd party services. What can you tell us on their current status?
“Shippingcluster is not a traditional social network, limited to the maritime industry. Shippingcluster is using social media technology as a basis for connecting the global industry, enabling new and efficient maritime services that would be impossible without this industry network.
The maritime industry is highly fragmented with a high number of companies, relating to one another in a truly international network, regardless of a company’s size. It is a genuine people business where personal relationships play a central role in the business dynamics, quite similar to the typical interaction patterns seen in social networks.
We start with the people and company profiles, enabling the global industry network, and we will continuously add new industry “Apps”, based on member input, as the network grows:
- In May, we added maritime jobs, making it easy for everyone to post their maritime job openings, using the same familiar industry keyword tagging used on profiles.
- In July we added “Messaging” functionality and “Industry Events”, making it easy to communicate one by one and to a broader audience.
- The coming fall we will among others, introduce “Maritime News” and the “Market Square” enabling members to share and find specific topics of interest.
We are already working on integrating 3rd party news and weather services and we welcome all existing industry players to contact us about integrating their services with the Shippingcluster API, enabling them to reach a broader industry audience and for their customers to access their services from within an integrated industry network.”
What are your key objectives for the future?
“The key objective for Shippingcluster is to be part of transforming the industry, providing a shared industry’s arena for everyone to benefit from, facilitating efficient collaboration and exchange of business data throughout this highly international industry.
In addition to connecting existing players and services, the international shipping industry has many new challenges ahead. Especially within the environmental field, where we expect to see many new regulations and requirements, which will require new accompanying services.
On Shippingcluster, these new services can easily be launched on top of the existing industry network, in many ways as easy as adding new apps to a smartphone.”
World Maritime News Staff, July 21st, 2014