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Innovators: We’re on mission to save the world’s container vessels over a $1 billion annually

Dennis Sandmark, CTO Chris Jones (l) 12 years at sea as a Second Officer on cargo ships (left) and CEO, Chris Jones (right) of Intelligent Cargo Systems

PortandTerminal.com, April 9, 2019

Intelligent Cargo Systems’ mission is to improve the efficiency of container ships in port; enabling vessels to sail sooner at slower speeds, reducing fuel consumption and saving shipping companies money. The company estimates that the potential cost saving that they can deliver to the industry is upwards of $1 billion. PortandTerminal.com caught up with Chris Jones, CEO and Co-founder of the company for some Q&A.

The Opportunity

The easiest way for ships to sail slower and save money is to leave port early so that they’re not in a rush to make up for lost time

Forty percent of a container ship’s costs are fuel so one of the easiest ways for ships to save money is to use less fuel. To use less fuel, ships need to sail slower. The easiest way for ships to sail slower is to leave port early so that they’re not in a rush to make up for lost time. This is where Intelligent Cargo System’s CargoMate comes into the picture. CargoMate is designed to act as a cargo logbook and communications tool for crew so that port visits are more efficient allowing the vessel to depart earlier at slower speed.

A difference of 1 knot over 1,000 miles means 45 tons less bunkers consumed and 135 tons less CO2 emissions.

Port of Rotterdam

Container ships understandably operate on very tight schedules. So when a container ship is late leaving port, it needs to increase it speed to make up for lost time. The faster a ship sails, the more fuel it burns. The reverse is also true. The Port of Rotterdam estimates that a difference of going just 1 knot slower over 1,000 miles means 45 tons less bunkers consumed and 135 tons less CO emissions.

CargoMate is an easy to use app that acts as a cargo
logbook and communications tool for crew

When ships lie idle in ports, they waste money. The CargoMate port call system simplifies every port call allowing vessels to optimise their time in port and stay on schedule which saves time, money and fuel.

There are 6,000 container ships worldwide and we can save each one $180,000 a year.

The team at CargoMate estimate that vessels that use their technology can save approximately $180,000 annually. Were all 6,000 container ships in the world to use the technology, CargoMate estimates that it could save the industry a billion dollars annually.

Q&A with Chris Jones, CEO and Co-Founder of Intelligent Cargo Systems

Chris Jones, Co-founder & CEO of CargoMate speaking at an Entrepreneurs First accelerator event

Any early learnings that you can share about the two test pilots you recently completed?

We underestimated how much our users (the seafarers) would give feedback. The feedback became instrumental in getting our users to trust that we were designing the product for them to use, rather than forcing the product upon them. It has worked well for us too, as our users often suggest new features that can improve CargoMate substantially and provide more accurate estimations for our customers.

Without giving too much away, please tell us about the process of setting these two trials up with the shipping lines. Was it a tough sell? Who helped champion the idea for you?

Setting up the trials is one of the easiest parts of the pilot. We don’t require too much information from the shipping line, only a few details about the ship we’re testing on so we can set up the CargoMate device correctly.
Any pilot is a tough sell for a shipping company. The biggest cost involved with the pilot from the shipping line is the personnel hours required to find a suitable vessel and route, organise clearance to visit the vessel and explain the concept to the Captains of the vessels who will actually conduct the pilot. We don’t want to add to that burden, so we’ve worked hard to make CargoMate quick and easy to set up for a pilot.

Finding the champion within the shipping line is key. The champion understands the problem we’re trying to solve and can align it to their internal KPI’s. With both pilots, we’ve been lucky to find a champion relatively early on in the process, and this has made both processes far easier. Currently, we see the Fleet Managers as having the most to gain from our product, so we liaise with those departments first. But, as shipping lines are taking on more digitalisation and improvement projects, we’re getting growing interest from departments concerned with efficiency and cost-savings.

What are the key differences between the new version of CargoMate (V2) and the first version (VI)?  Was this based upon customer feedback or something that you had wanted to evolve to anyway?

CargoMate Version 2 has been rebuilt from the ground up based on what we learned from Version 1. We’ve focused on making the interface more intuitive. V1 was rather heavy on text and numbers, V2 is a lot more graphical. The design of the app also helps the user through each stage of cargo operations.

We also have some new features involving dangerous goods and refrigerated containers. These features were suggested by both our users and our customers. Any feature that can provide value to our customers and our customer’s customers is of interest to us. There are a lot of exciting developments to come this year. CargoMate V2 is just the start…

Is using CargoMate intuitive enough that it can be rolled out to crew without much training? If not, how do/will you manage the training component to familiarise crew with how to use your system?

CargoMate currently requires about 20 minutes of tuition for the crew, though V2 is significantly shorter due to the more intuitive interface. We’ve designed CargoMate to be a “pick-up-and-go” system for our users, where they don’t need to spends days and days reading manuals or watching tutorial videos. Because we manage our software over-the-air, we can improve the app between port calls to ensure the software or interface doesn’t get in the way of the crew performing their job properly.

Your experience at Entrepreneur First where you met your co-founder Dennis was inspiring. Would you share a few thoughts about your path personally that took you to where you are today and offer up any advice you can to other potential maritime entrepreneurs out there who may be thinking of making the leap themselves?

Prior to starting Intelligent Cargo Systems with co-founder and CTO Dennis Sandmark, Chris Jones (and his beard) spent 12 years at sea as a Second Officer on cargo ships

I loved being a seafarer but I started to really get frustrated that onboard processes weren’t keeping pace with technology. I think paperwork is still a huge issue at sea, but a bigger issue for me as a seafarer was not having readily accessible and contextually relevant information. I used to waste so much time trying to find the information I needed to do my job when if it was digitalised it would be easily searchable. The other major issue is that because the paperwork wasn’t being digitalised, vital operational data was being kept onboard to gather dust in an archive room. That was the starting point for CargoMate: Easy digital recording and liberating valuable data from the ship to shore.

I took an extended leave to validate CargoMate as a business, whilst developing the prototype at night. I quickly learned that I was the wrong person to be developing the app – I needed a technical co-founder.
Luckily, around the same time, I came across Entrepreneur First, who is a pre-team, pre-idea accelerator. Effectively, they take individuals who know a specific area better than anyone else. I took the cargo operations as my area, and my eventual co-founder Dennis took his experience of building multi-platform software products. Around the same time, we met our long-term shipping line customer. As we’ve grown the team and the platform has matured, they have been with us every step of the way. They’ve provided feedback, guidance and have been patient in helping us get to where we are today. 

In general, the skills required for seafaring and entrepreneurship are incredibly similar, and it should be considered a viable route for seafarers looking to continue their career ashore. A fantastic piece of advice drilled into me through the Entrepreneur First program was “strong beliefs, weakly held”. This means that you might have a great idea on how to solve a problem but you should be ready to amend or dump that idea if a better solution or bigger value-proposition appears. 

I really look forward to more seafarers starting maritime technology companies as they often know and have felt the problems they’re trying to solve first-hand. It’s a big career change, but an incredibly worthwhile and rewarding venture.

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