Internet shipbrokerage Levelseas is seeking to recoup payments from a sacked software developer, a move that illustrates the frustration many Internet start-ups have suffered in targeting the complex shipping industry. "The key to the issue is that they say the product works and we say it doesn't," Levelseas COO Kevin O'Connor said
. "At the end of February we realized that CSC was unusable and we haven't used a single line of specification... or a single code," he added. CSC was unavailable to comment on Tuesday.
Levelseas took the development of the world's first Internet ship-brokerage in-house in February and launched the finished product at the start of last month.
On Wednesday it announced that seven of the world's biggest commodity traders had signed up as customers to its product LSX.
Levelseas contracted Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) to build the exchange last year, and at that time was talking of a launch in October 2000.
While Levelseas was repeatedly missing launch deadlines, its competitors in the shipping e-commerce sector were experiencing worse problems.
Many of them, most notably, ShipDesk folded because of problems with funding and technology. ShipDesk failed to re-open its doors after the 2000/2001 Christmas holidays.
"For less than a third of CSC's failed pilot we've delivered the working product," said O'Connor, adding Levelseas was now seeking expert judgment from the British Computer Society (BCS).
"The president of the BCS has appointed an expert to look into this," he said.
Although the BCS judgment could be used as evidence in court, Chief Executive Officer Richard Hext told Reuters that Levelseas would sooner avoid legal action.
"Let's see what happens, but it's always better to solve these things outside the courts," he said.
A source close to Levelseas said the company had already paid CSC
$5 million of its $7 million fee, but was demanding a refund. Levelseas total costs so far are estimated at $40 million. - (Reuters)