Why Offer ECDIS for Free?
Steven Schootbrugge, CEO at ChartWorld International, discusses trends surrounding the development of ECDIS offering and the company’s ECDIS for Free solution.
Can you give us your top five digital navigation issues?
Broadly speaking, the ECDIS issues shipowners and managers face fall into three general categories. First there are, of course, issues which are unique to the maritime sector; including the onboard communication systems, the limitations on getting data onto vessels due to excessive costs and ensuring regular and appropriate chart loading and updating.
Secondly, the complicated and constantly changing ECDIS standards are something we just have to deal with. Industry regulation is not something we're going to see a reduction of anytime soon, and we just have to make the best of the situation. There is a major change to the standard coming into effect in eight months which will see a large percentage of the ECDIS equipped fleet requiring a software upgrade and a visit from an engineer. It is one of the changes that if not done your ECDSIS will stop being and ECDIS!
Finally, any new technology, regardless of sector or operational environment faces the same hurdles – a user's lack of knowledge, potentially complicated systems and training requirements.
The excepted industry way to overcome these issues is training and familiarity. But this can cost.
Would free ECDIS help solve any issues?
ECDIS for Free focuses on the complete ECDIS solution, not just a software “dump.” Some key features which solve the above issues include unlimited onboard training and familiarization for all users, an intuitive touch ECDIS – designed to reduce the amount of training required, and to increase intuitive familiarization and a lifetime warranty and compliance guarantee, regardless of any standard changes.
Digital navigation, like other technological advances, has great advantages for the maritime sector. But unless users demand new ways of service delivery, or new solutions, then a lot of the potential advantage is being lost.
Presumably free ECDIS is just a promo to give it for free and then make money some other way? Why should shipowners be interested?
We want ECDIS For Free to shake up the market. Technology, ideally, should save us time and money in the long-run, but that doesn't seem to happen too often in the maritime sector.
We've seen an opportunity to make this happen; there is a genuine ROI for moving to digital navigation if you do not have to outlay the large amounts of capital in the early stages. We will make money on delivering services to the ECDIS, much like Apple makes money through the app store. The hardware is the facilitator and shipping companies should get that advantage. ECDIS for free.
With this offer shipowners will have a much better understanding of, and transparency around, their total ownership costs for digital navigation costs, and this should help with budgeting. A comprehensive ECDIS solution is not just about the “box” (ECDIS) but all the other services around this – which most manufacturers don’t focus on.
Shipowners should know that when they pay an invoice, they are getting everything they require for effective digital navigation for their fleet, including world class global support for all hardware, software and digital data. This results in a better experience for shipowners, ship managers and the crew and they don’t need to invest in buying the equipment to get it.
How does the offer differ from what is generally offered in the industry?
Other digital navigation vendors typically focus on just one or two areas relating to ECDIS, for example hardware and software, or charts and digital data services. This division increases operational and procurement complexity and reduces the efficiencies which should be available. Coverage of all aspects relating to the use of ECDIS, including future changes to the standards, is a far more sustainable and affordable model.
With ECDIS as a service, owners get a “customer for life” philosophy but with no strings attached. Customers are not locked into a contract and can leave anytime if they feel the service doesn’t meet their expectations or the vessel is getting sold or scrapped. Perfect for today’s uncertain economic climate.
What sort of vessels/operators is it suited to?
All SOLAS vessels and other non-SOLAS vessels that see the benefits of using ECDIS for navigation but have been put off by the high costs.
How future-proof is it?
SaaS (Software as a Service) is becoming the norm now in the wider software world. ChartWorld’s ECDIS for Free concept is just a natural progression of this. Customers want to have the latest features and technological platform but don’t want to be charged an exorbitant fee every time there is a change.
As we see advances in this industry, including a decrease in communication costs, more advanced software solutions and data services will be integrated and launched into our platforms. ChartWorld's ECDIS For Free will continue to lead the way as customers will be able to get the latest and greatest pushed through to them as part of a monthly subscription.
We have created an ECDIS community that starts with crew feedback and ends with regular software releases to meet their changing needs. This is now a six month cycle instead of a five year cycle. It creates and environment for faster and targeted innovation: the regulated necessities with choice and flexibility. It is the future of digital navigation.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.