Globally, there are currently around 55,000 cargo ships carrying 1.6 million seafarers. These crews spend between 3 and 9 months on board, although in some cases this has increased to over a year due to the pandemic. Organising and facilitating crew changes poses a logistical challenge that is both cost and time intensive, especially as many of the processes remain analogue and decentralised.
To tackle the problem head-on Tilla Systems GmbH, a new start-up founded by company builder Flagship Founders, has developed a smart platform for the automated planning and execution of cargo ship crew changes. The company has already secured Hamburg’s time-honoured shipping company Peter Döhle Schiffahrts-KG as one of their first customers. The platform’s official launch is scheduled for this year’s fourth quarter.
Some five million crew changes take place on cargo ships every year. Planning entails gathering data from multiple sources and coordinating multiple parties who need to be kept up-to-date at all times. Circumstances can change without warning, due to new travel restrictions for example, meaning decisions must often be made quickly. “As it’s still very much a manual process it doesn’t always result in the best outcome from an economical perspective,” explains Niklas Weidmann, Founder and CEO at Tilla. “So, we’ve collated all the information, parameters and parties on one single platform, and employ data mining techniques to cut processing and travel costs. This allows better, more efficient decision-making about when and where a crew change should take place.”
Tilla uses API interfaces to integrate all its essential data sources. They pull crew data from existing systems like the Hanseaticsoft Cloud Fleet Manager or flight data from Amadeus, eliminating the need for manual updates. A machine learning algorithm proposes the best time and place for a crew change. As well as including every stage from planning to reporting, the platform groups all important information (e.g. current travel restrictions or transport routes) in one place, reacts instantly to last-minute changes and suggests viable alternatives. The high level of automation not only saves a significant amount of time and money but also focuses more closely on key aspects of crew management, such as recruitment and training.
Even before the platform’s official launch, Hamburg’s own Peter Döhle Schiffahrts-KG believes it offers a range of advantages. The prestigious shipping company and global player already numbers among Tilla’s first customers, and is currently using its expertise to shape the development process. Tilla plans to use the new system on around 150 ships where it oversees crew management. “Crew changes are extremely fragmented, dynamic and costly processes making them the perfect point to introduce digital solutions. With Tilla’s support we can keep a closer eye on crew changes, process information more quickly and efficiently, and ensure all our collaborations run smoothly,” says Johann Diercks, Ship Management Director at Peter Döhle Schiffahrts-KG. “We can streamline our processes and offer our customers the best possible service.”
Tilla is the latest start-up by Berlin-based company builder Flagship Founders, who specialises in creating scalable business with digital product solutions for the shipping industry. The last year has also seen the successful roll-out of Kaiko Systems, a tool that records and analyses data to provide comprehensive insights into a vessel’s real-time health, delivers reliable information for decision makers and reduces downtime.
“We’re thrilled that with Tilla’s help we can solve the specific problem of costly crew changes. In the future, we also want to improve the much-overlooked issue of crewing overall,” says Fabian Feldhaus, CEO and Co-Founder of Flagship Founders. The long-term vision is for Tilla to cover all key aspects of crew management, including recruitment and remuneration. However, at present, the focus remains on completing the product development phase for this year’s launch, establishing strong customer relations and expanding their team of employees.