"Offshore logistic nightmare created by extreme weather gave experienced ship and crew manager Brattekaas the idea to found her own development vehicle", writes Tradewinds.

Full article: 

Darrin Griggs

Oslo

"Digital innovation may be changing many aspects of business but necessity is still the mother of invention, judging by the app-development story of Shipcosts founder and managing director Olga Brattekaas.

In her case, Brattekaas identified a clear need when former employer Seabird Exploration suffered the wrath of category-five Hurricane Matthew — the same one that devastated Haiti — in 2016.

Brattekaas, as head of seismic and marine personnel at the time, had to tackle the crew problems during and after the hurricane, which grounded flights, endangered crew and triggered an expensive logistical nightmare that hit Seabird’s crucial timetable for a project off Mexico.

Evaluating what went wrong and how to avoid future problems was a process that went on for months, Brattekaas tells TradeWinds.

That long, intense process convinced her that digitalization was the answer. But it also prompted her to leave Seabird and develop her first crew-change app — Jurnez, pronounced “journ-ease”.

“Yes, that’s actually when the idea struck me to start my own [company], instead of just sitting and waiting just to see what happens to crew managers’ jobs in a few years,” she says. “I think they may start to disappear.”

In partnership with Oslo-list- ed shipowner Siem Offshore, the 44-year-old Ukrainian is now in the final, live-testing stages for the app to address the specific logistical needs related to offshore crew changes.

Its market release is set for early next month, after close to two years in development. Many systems are on the market to deal with various aspects of ship and crew management, but she says there are no competitors in this specific crew-change niche.

Brattekaas gave TradeWinds an early preview of Jurnez, which is completing its trial run with two Siem Offshore vessels that are now in Brazil.

Deepsea shipowners may not be aware that relatively frequent crew changes are one of the more sector-specific tasks that offshore shipowners must manage.

Seafarers on merchant ships can remain at sea for months per cargo transit, but offshore assets normally have two full sets of crews that change shifts about every three to six weeks.

COMPLEX CREW CHANGES

These frequent changes become more complex when seafarers are sourced from multiple countries for offshore vessels that are working globally, as the crew will need all the proper scheduling, plane tickets, documents, visas and work permits for any given area worldwide.

Seismic vessels, such as those at Seabird, present an even more de-

manding situation. This is partly because high operational efficiency is paramount for a seismic company’s profitability, which turns their ships into moving targets — literally.

In gathering data, often over thousands of square kilometres per project, seismic vessels will remain in constant forward motion, using specialized tender ships for refuelling. This is so that they can tow their kilometres-long stream- ers 24 hours per day until the work is done — but crew changes must still take place.

In Seabird’s crew-change case in 2016, four of its Filipino personnel ended up stranded in the storm. They were left without power for four days at an interchange en route to the vessel in Mexican waters after they were allowed to board flights in the Philippines with no warning of the hurricane ahead, Brattekaas says.

Missing that crew-change schedule resulted in “enormous” costs for Seabird, not least in operational terms, but she says the danger to personnel — owners have full responsibility during travel — was the much greater threat.

“One of those stranded guys described a tree that fell very close to him and he basically escaped just by a miracle,” Brattekaas says.

“For any company, that would have been really terrible, but also in terms of reputation. Reputation costs much more than money.”

Web-based Jurnez, also installed as a phone app for crew, is meant to act as a hub to keep communications between shipowners, crew managers, port agents and seafarers all in one interface, while the members are able to exchange files.

It provides current GPS locations, active itineraries and check-in schedules for crew, which allows owners to keep a real-time safety watch during transit. The system also monitors weather along the routes and sends alerts to all parties, which presumably would have prevented Seabird’s crew from flying into harm’s way in 2016.

“As the safety of our people has always been our highest priority, we were interested in digital solutions to improve crew-change management by always being aware of our crews’ location while they were travelling around the world,” Siem crew manager Bernt Morten Tallaksen says. 

He adds that Jurnez appears to fit Siem’s goal of finding a “simple and effective” way of improving crew changes without adding extra resources. However, in terms of resources, Brattekaas found in her evaluation of the 2016 problem that capacity was already being overburdened by normal tasks. But a crisis such as Hurricane Matthew simply pushed the crewing department well beyond its limits. “A lot of the work can be and should be digitised,” she says. “We need to get rid of the logistical noise.”

Crew-change app Jurnez is the first digital product produced by Olga Brattekaas, but her development vehicle — Shipcosts — is not the first company she has founded. The managing director of the start-up has about 12 years of experience in maritime management, having first started ship and crew-management company Olevent in her native Ukraine. Brattekaas ran Olevent for about three years before Bibby Ship Management decided to snap it up in July 2008, when the well known UK company was looking to explore the crewing market in eastern Europe. She followed Olevent to Bibby, where she also held a seat on the board, and ended up representing the latter for the whole of Scandinavia from its office in Norway, plus she met her husband. Through Olevent, Bibby launched into crew training in offshore’s key area of operating dynamic positioning (DP) systems for ships. It created the only DP training centre with a blue-chip Kongsberg simulator in the whole of eastern Europe, where the offshore sector often recruits seafarers. “Maybe we were just lucky, at the right time, in the right place, but when Bibby financed part of the DP simulator, it was really a boom because everyone wanted to switch from the merchant fleet to the offshore fleet and western European companies wanted a corporate solution for crewing and training,” Brattekaas says. “We provided eastern European crew, plus DP training, and that was very convenient for clients. That success lasted until the offshore crisis hit.”

NEW DIRECTION

Brattekaas says she saw the writing on the wall for the company’s direction well before V.Ships bought Bibby in 2016. So, in 2015, she joined Oslo-listed Seabird Exploration, heading up seismic and marine personnel, taking on human resources duties and running a series of cost optimisation programmes. Shipcosts is focused on initiatives to track operating expenses and identify operating-expense drivers associated with all aspects of ship and crew management, regardless of the shipping sector.

She describes it as “a vehicle” for creating projects such as Jurnez, which is related specifically to offshore crew changes. Brattekaas holds a master’s degree in chemistry and technology, as well as in business management. She tells TradeWinds that her master’s degree actually was “a big benefit” when previously running third-party management for tankers and LNG carriers. But she laughed aloud when asked whether it provided any insight for developing digital applications.

She says a team of seven US based developers has been working on the Jurnez app for almost two years at a cost of about NOK1m ($123,000).

Meanwhile, state-owned development organisation Innovation Norway examined Jurnez and liked what it saw. It has supported the project with a grant of NOK 380,000.

While family and friends make up the other backers so far, Brattekaas says she would seek new investors after next month’s launch."

Read the story at Tradewinds http://www.tradewindsnews.com/offshore/1511393/hurricane-turmoil-inspires-seismic-shift-for-crewing-start-up