In the coming months, RightShip will roll out its new digital platform. Christopher Saunders, our global marine process manager, has played a pivotal part in the build of this innovative system. He’s an experienced seafarer, and prior to joining RightShip, completed a remarkable role in which he oversaw the build of three Ice Class ARC-7 LNG carriers as part of the Yamal LNG project.
Christopher brings significant real-world experience to this project. In this Q&A, he explains why the new platform build is so important and how this technology can improve outcomes at sea.
Tell us about your role and why is RightShip upgrading its digital platform?
When I joined RightShip, I started as a vetting superintendent and I was using the platform for risk assessment. During the project’s build, I took on the role of product owner. It was great to guide the direction, because I knew what it could bring to the people who use it.
We’re upgrading our platform because our existing software was held back by some of the original infrastructure, so we decided to start with a clean slate. Building from the ground up has enabled us to create something that’s not only strong in 2020 but will help us to reach our ambitious goals in the years to come.
What challenges did you face during this project?
Many people with various business objectives use our platform. These include RightShip staff, charters, ship owners and banks, so we needed to consider all of these different groups, which added complexity. We’re also working with a huge amount of data, coming from around the world in different formats, so we had to streamline that information.
The sheer scale of the project has been significant. We’ve worked across time zones, engaging our teams in London, Melbourne and Houston. I spent a lot of time travelling from London to Melbourne, but with COVID-19, we’ve had to adapt to complete the development within the anticipated timeframe.
As an experienced vetting superintendent, what were the barriers you faced when using Qi and how have you worked to remove them in the new platform?
Functionality was frustrating at times – something as simple as the search function wasn’t as effective as it could have been, and we know that’s a key user contact point. We’ve not just fixed it, we’ve improved it. I have worked for large oil organisations and safety was always drummed in. That’s always in my mind. Although this is a data-focused product, it has human safety implications. That means something as seemingly simply as a search upgrade can have a huge impact.
Emails also presented a challenge. So much of the work was done in Qi, but the rest of the time we’d be sending emails. I wanted to close the gap so there was less of a need to leave the platform. We created workflows and functionality such as instant notifications – that essentially means you don’t need to leave the platform. The aim is to slowly transition so that everything is done in one place.
Optimisation for mobile and tablet was also essential. The new platform has been designed to do that really well. I’ve been in a taxi going to the airport and updating information from my phone. I think that’s really useful. It’s a much more user-friendly experience.
What were the customers’ frustrations and how did you plan to resolve them in the new platform?
Most customers had the same frustrations. It was unstable and slow, so we’ve resolved that. A lot of information was sometimes hard to locate, so we’ve brought key information to the front. We’ve prioritised the data that we think will be useful as a result of working with internal and external parties to explore the best ways to present that information. That said, the design looks quite similar to Qi, so it will feel familiar to existing customers.
What are your favourite parts of the platform?
A lot of my favourite achievements are things that people don’t really see. We’ve rebuilt the rules engine for the vetting service. It’s far more complex in terms of what it can do and we’re excited that it’s going to give us new tools in terms of the vetting rules we do use. I’m also really pleased with the communications workflows (requests for information). It’s going to deliver more clarity for our customers.
The new platform is also beneficial for the RightShip team. Managers can see what the workflow looks like and assign resources accordingly. Now we can recognise which enquires we have to address and where – it changes across our regions. It’s going to put us in a better position to meet our customers’ expectations faster.
How much industry feedback did you consider when designing the platform?
We’re constantly hearing feedback and that includes the things that worked well in Qi, it’s been helpful to factor it in. There are parties we’ve gone to throughout the build process for practical workshops. This has been an essential part of the development as we want customers to benefit and engage with the features they need. This is just a starting point, we’re keen to hear more from regular users as the platform rolls out so we can continue to iterate and improve.
Finally, why is the new platform beneficial for the industry?
Many of the people involved in this project are ex–seafarers. We have a passion for improving safety at sea and protecting the environment. The sea is a challenging place to work; it can be dangerous and isolated. We want everyone to come home safe and have a fulfilling career. Through this new platform, we are looking to influence that.
I believe all seafarers’ lives should be equal. At the moment there’s disparity in the conditions for people, depending on what ship they happen to be on. There’s a lot of people who want to operate safer ships and sometimes they don’t know where to begin. Through this new platform we’re in a stronger position to help.
Learn more about RightShip’s new digital platform: ComingSoon.RightShip.com