Developing competitive advantage in the shipping industry is imperative, especially in periods of economic uncertainty when budget predictability and transparent operating costs are vital. Smart investments that ensure high quality and more reliable service differentiate the leaders in the industry, both in terms of increasing attractiveness to clients and maintaining their standards.
We spoke to Stelios Psillakis, the Chief Technical Officer of Seanergy Maritime, headquartered in Greece and listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange since 2008, to understand more about the company and its technological and environmental strategy.
Seanergy has a fleet of 16 capesize dry bulk vessels on a fully delivered basis. A capesize ship carries approximately 180,000 tons of cargo. As these vessels were too large to cross the old Suez or Panama canals, they had to sail longer routes around the capes at the southernmost points of Africa and South America. Thus, the name “capesize”.
Seanergy’s capesize fleet trades across the world, mostly carrying iron ore and coal from countries like Brazil and Australia to China and other industrial nations. “These vessels are the most efficient means of transportation for raw materials used by the steel industry,” Stelios explains. “Our clients are major mining corporations and leading operators, such as Cargill, Glencore, Anglo-American and others.”
Clients are attracted to repeated and long-term business with Seanergy because of the quality of its ships and the transparency with which it operates, generating considerable trust. “And because we always seek and implement pioneering ways to manage our vessels as efficiently as it gets, resulting in the highest standards within our sector. The condition of the vessels is something to which we pay considerable attention and keep improving.” Stelios Psillakis says, “This consistent care and attention is a major factor in Seanergy’s good relationship with its clients”.
As Chief Technical Officer, Stelios Psillakis ensures that the company stays in compliance with all new regulations around the world and looks after all the technology required to keep the fleet in motion.
Mr. Psillakis is proud to consider his company a leader in its sector when it comes to technological developments: “We are first movers, adopting new technologies at a very early stage; we don’t wait until the last minute or until they become a compliance requirement. We choose to thoroughly evaluate all options available beforehand and finally decide on the best one for the future.”
The company has an enviable record on early technology adoption, particularly to reduce emissions and increase efficiency: “We were among the first Greek dry bulk company to begin installing scrubbers for SOx compliance, and to work on advanced methods to improve fuel efficiency. And we were among the first companies to complete the evaluation of the Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (“EEXI”) of our entire fleet. We began to install telemetry and advanced electronics systems for each of our vessels five years ago. In addition, we have developed a strong technical expertise and we have helped co-develop many of the know systems that exist today.”
This last investment gives Seanergy real-time direct insight into the status of its vessels. Managers are able to monitor the vessels in real time from the office and understand what is happening on board, in considerable detail, says Stelios Psillakis: “From the speed of the vessel, to its fuel consumption and the RPM of the motors. Whatever data exists on board, we can also see it onshore.”
This data empowers the next stage of Seanergy’s technological mission “Because these are such large vessels, travelling such long distances, the most important part of the job is to have proactive maintenance and foresee each and every issue that could potentially arise during operations,” says Stelios. Breakdowns and malfunctions while a voyage in underway could potentially be disastrous. “Reliability is at the heart of our good relationships with clients. It’s very important to secure trouble-free operations for the vessels.”
Between Seanergy and previous roles onshore and offshore, Stelios Psillakis has been working with ABB for around 15 years: “We’re very satisfied with the turbochargers because they’re very reliable and have minimal maintenance requirements. They offer trouble-free operation, which is very important for us.”
The service agreement Seanergy recently contracted with ABB — Turbo MarineCare — helps ensure continued, reliable performance, but more importantly for Mr. Psillakis, removes a sophisticated piece of machinery from the items a Chief Technical Officer needs to worry about: “ABB are the experts when it comes to turbochargers. By sharing the relevant data from the ships to them, they do the following up, they do the monitoring. And we have an extensive 5-year warranty, which is perfect for us, especially since it also covers normal wear and tear that may result in turbocharger failures.”
“Modern vessels are enormously complex: it’s impossible to know, understand and follow-up tasks across dozens of very sophisticated systems. Nonetheless, it’s important that these systems are looked after by experts,” Stelios Psillakis concludes. “The Turbo MarineCare service agreement ensures that expert attention is on hand.”