In Depth: Looking Back and Forward with the Maritime Industry

Shipbuilder software being used for full control of FPSO conversion. Photo by Shipbuilder

From whatever angle you look at it, the maritime industry is broad. It covers a multitude of sectors and sub-sectors, some using unique techniques and technologies, others relying on inter- and intra-sector collaboration to get the job the done as safely and effectively as possible.

On the other hand, despite this diversity, trends that affect the maritime industry are relatively consistent. Growth in Asia, digitalisation and big data, oil price uncertainty, the rise of LNG, geographical expansion of offshore wind energy, industry consolidation and Industry 4.0 — all these issues affect the maritime industry.

To get a ‘snapshot’ of how the Dutch maritime sector is faring, Maritime Holland approached a number of different maritime companies from a wide perspective of niche markets for their input on how they experienced the previous twelve months and their expectations for the coming year.

WIND

Specialising in subsea cable logistic services, WIND’s customers include subsea cable manufacturers and installers, in addition to offshore marine contractors and utility companies. Director Erik Thomas takes a retrospective look at the company’s activities in 2017 while examining the various possibilities that 2018 will bring.

How was 2017 for WIND?

“We have enjoyed an excellent year with key cable logistics projects awarded in both the renewable and oil and gas industries. Oil and gas has obviously been slow, but we have managed to secure all the large projects that were available. Apart from the one-off contracts, we have also been able to secure new framework agreements with existing clients. This not only brings a steady amount of work but also represents a very welcomed token of appreciation and trust in our work from the perspective of our clients.”

Where do you see opportunities for growth?

“With the level of projected growth of the renewable energy market, it is obvious where our growth opportunities as a cable logistics specialist lie. As the industry’s oldest and most established cable storage and handling specialist, we see many newcomers entering or considering to enter the market. This is for storage services in particular, but also includes pure equipment supply – cable carousels, for example – or from an integrated repair service angle. We are looking forward to exploiting ways of cooperation with these new players, heading for all-in-one service provision.”

What factors have driven your success?

“Our key assets are our people – both our supervisors, operators and coilers in port, in addition to our engineers and project managers in the office. We go the extra mile, anticipate on possible problems ahead to make sure they are nullified before occurring and all that with a smile and good temper.”

What are your expectations for 2018?

“The market is constantly changing, so we anticipate a lot of interesting dynamics that are driven by both market growth and new players. Therefore, we aim to focus on the emerging potential that these changes will bring. Flexibility is paramount.”

Shipbuilder

With the ever-increasing importance of data management and digitalisation in the shipbuilding industry, maritime software company Shipbuilder offers a broad range of software modules aimed at ship owners, design and engineering offices, shipyards and subcontractors. Director Geert Schouten shares his experiences from 2017 while looking ahead.

How was 2017 for Shipbuilder?

“What we experienced this year is that companies are more aware that digitalisation should be their main priority in order to stay in the game and to stay competitive. Therefore we made a lot of innovations within our virtual (VR) and augmented reality (AR) tools.

In terms of contracts, our Shipbuilder software has been very successful on a large and complex project at Damen Shipyards; enabling effective management of 1 terabyte of information, including laser scans and CAD data. We are also proud that the Dutch Ministry of Defence has signed a new contract for the next phase of their fleet renewal programme.”

Where do you see opportunities for growth?

“We are certain that the topic of 2018 will be ‘digitalisation’, with a particular focus on VR, AR and big data. These topics are causing turmoil in the maritime sector at a rapid pace, and what we see is that many maritime companies find digitalisation a challenging subject.

This is where our knowledge and experience comes in handy; we run workshops about developing a vision related to digital transformation. During these workshops, we illustrate where we are within the digital transformation landscape and which areas companies should pay attention to realise a successful digital transformation. What we also see is that most shipping companies want a bigger digital revolution than most shipyards can offer. There is so much potential left out there! In 2018 this will be our and our clients’ growth opportunity.”

What factors have driven your success?

“Fundamental to our success is the combination of our maritime knowledge and data management tool alongside the hands-on approach that we take. We offer the whole package from vision to the actual doing, with the goal of making ‘right-the-first-time’ a reality for every maritime organisation. From a technical perspective, combining our single truth, real-time sharing of data with other technologies like laser scans, RFID and augmented reality is our new success.”

And where do the biggest challenges lie?

“The challenge is still the human factor. How can people understand the difference between a document-driven business and a data-driven business?”

What are your expectations for 2018?

“The maritime industry is quite diverse in status. The offshore wind market will continue to lower its costs – something that we also expect to see in the superyacht sector. And while the naval industry is picking up pace everywhere, oil and gas is still in survival mode, but with a slightly better perspective. However, there is one common theme — digitalisation is a key driver for all these markets.”

Bolidt

From superyachts to offshore, from cruise to naval vessels; Bolidt’s synthetic decking systems are found throughout the maritime industry. Jacco van Overbeek, the company’s maritime division director, picks out some of the highlights from the previous year.

How was 2017?

“We have completed several significant contracts and started some key projects during this last year. From the cruise sector, our work on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Joy was a real highlight. We installed the world’s first full-scale on-board race track. At 230 metres long, the track material is based on our road surfacing technology. It is durable, and slip resistant enough for safety purposes but not so non-slip as to take the thrill out of racing!

What’s more, this is a great example of how we can transfer complementary know-how between the diverse sectors in which we work, which will be more visible in AREA78. Also in the cruise sector, and another world’s first too, was the launch of Bolideck Glow, a glow-in-the-dark, solar-powered decking system that will allow ship designers greater scope to create exciting new concepts.

We also teamed up with Esthec and Oceanco to organise the Annual Young Designers Getaway for 22 young designers active in the yacht industry. Addressing the fact that design is very important in this sector, this was a special event that invited young maritime designers from all over the world to see the unlimited design possibilities offered by Bolidt and Esthec.

The temperature and impact resistance testing of the deck of the Royal Netherlands Navy’s Joint Support Ship Karel Doorman is also definitely worth a mention. This deck can withstand temperatures of up to 250 Celsius – verified by seven separate landings of a US Marines Osprey aircraft, which because of its tilted engines, blasts hot exhaust gases over the deck.

Looking further ahead to our AREA78 project, we started construction of our Experience & Innovation Centre in the Netherlands. Scheduled for completion in 2019, this open source innovation centre has co-creation as its central focus. From here we will be able to work on new synthetic applications together with start-ups, knowledge institutions and collaborative suppliers.”

Where do you see growth potential for Bolidt’s maritime division?

“We see the Asian market as a growing market, especially for the cruise sector. It is for this reason that we have opened a new sales office in Shanghai. In addition, we expect the refit market for cruise to increase too. Responding to the issue of the tight schedules typically seen in cruise vessel refits, we have developed a refit programme with special teams to ensure that vessel downtime is minimised.”

What is the most important factor in Bolidt’s success?

“Our success is due to the fact that we carry out all of our activities in-house. No other comparable company can say this. This includes product development, production, sales, application and installation. The implications of this are that not only is the whole process very efficient, but also our responsibilities to quality are central to everything that we do.”


This article was previously published in Maritime Holland edition #7 – 2017.

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