Analysts, pundits, skeptics and just about anyone with a two-bit opinion have voiced their thoughts — informed and otherwise — as to the potential effects that the surge in “e-commerce” solutions will have on the transportation community at large. While the marine market is traditionally said to be slow in following general business trends, this supposed character trait has not been evident in the new electronic realm, as websites and on-line business portals covering nearly every niche of the industry are popping up quickly around the globe.
The questions surrounding the use of e-commerce solutions in the marine business now turn not to “when” and “if,” rather to “what degree.” The secretive nature under which much of the marine world operates could prove, at first, prohibitive in the full leveraging of electronic solution efficiencies. Generally speaking, the sharing of information has been limited at best, whether it is for specifications and pricing regarding bunker fuel, cargoes or vessel pricing.
A slew of new partnerships using e-commerce as the glue that binds could perhaps mark a turning point of sorts for the marine world. For example, OceanConnect, aiming to provide a fast and price-efficient marketplace for marine fuel transactions, has brought together a formidable grouping including BP Marine, FAMM, Shell Marine Products as well as broker Horace Clarkson PLC.
Another recent launch, Tradiant (www.tradiant.com), offers shippers, freight forwarders and transportation carriers a comprehensive suite of e-commerce solutions to optimize the flow of information across the entire transportation chain. The company and its product are unique in that the majority of its executive staff, from president and CEO John Urban (15 years at APL), on down cumulatively have centuries of shipping and international transportation experience.
E-commerce and its effects on the marine business will be a recurring theme in the pages of not only Maritime Reporter & Engineering News, but all of the products produced by The Maritime Group, including MarineNews, Maritime Week and www.marinelink.com. One of our symbols for this regular feature will be the little “computer guy” pictured above, as the editorial coverage will not simply focus on the most recent web offerings rather real-world scenarios where e-commerce solutions have helped solve (or cause) problems. I invite readers to liberally contribute to this section by sending comments, suggestions and potential stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.