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i4 Insight’s CEO, Joel Meltzner, reveals how smart use of data can yield unprecedented benefits.
“Our business model is designed so that one plus one makes three, or even four,” says Joel Meltzner, CEO of i4 Insight. The company, majority-owned by LR, offers clients access to a platform providing a single point of access for different data streams relating to ship operation.
Getting one and one to make three just isn’t possible. Or is it?
Meltzner explains: “There is a whole range of data platforms where information can be exchanged between parties. These platforms are a marketplace that aggregates data – helpful, yes, but this alone does not add value. We’re bringing software applications and data together so that the benefits exceed the sum of the parts.”
i4 Insight’s one-of-a-kind digital ecosystem collects data from disparate solutions and integrates it into a single platform, providing a holistic solution that offers intelligent insight into a business. The platform’s unique ability to examine and aggregate data from multiple perspectives using artificial intelligence, machine learning and proprietary algorithms allows for a more comprehensive understanding of that information. This understanding, and consequent validation, of information, translates into maximum operating safety and energy efficiency, fewer operating errors and reduced environmental impact all while increasing visibility into fleet performance.
The company is generating a multitude of new opportunities for shipowners, charterers and service suppliers. Its success so far can be attributed to its vision of solving problems with integrated digital solutions, conquering the challenge of isolated and disconnected maritime systems.
“We go to a potential client and ask individual departments to explain their operations and their efficiency aims,” Meltzner says. “We ask: ‘Please help us to understand your objectives so that we can consider whether there are quicker or easier ways to achieve them. Perhaps we can generate extra outcomes that could help your business.’
“Usually, there are. We aim to offer them an approach that turns data into accessible information so that all departments in a shipping company – the bunker team, the superintendents, the navigators, the accountants – can easily see improvements to operational metrics.”
However, i4 Insight has another string to its bow. In addition to owners, it is targeting major charterers in the dry and liquid bulk markets. This is a well-timed move because shipping’s customers are increasingly focused on operational efficiency – bunker consumption, voyage planning, maintenance management, and so on.
“[Carbon profile] is an even greater focus now than it was a year ago,” Meltzner said. “Initiatives like the Sea Cargo Charter and the Poseidon Principles hold charterers, owners and financiers accountable as they are required to demonstrate their ESG credentials and the carbon efficiency of their sea transport operations.
“That’s why our Geneva hub is so important. It’s one of the key locations for many leading charterers who control large volumes of seaborne bulk cargo movements.” It also reveals why LR’s Shipping Markets Global Lead, Chris Hughes, based in Geneva, has seen a significant uptick in charterer enquiries in recent months (see next page).
“SCC and PP are important steps,” Meltzner continues, “but the IMO’s short-term requirements on the efficiency and carbon intensity of existing tonnage are a more immediate driver. Our alliance with bunker planning specialist, BunkerEx, is a key development in this context.”
BunkerEx, now implemented into the i4 Insight platform, provides real-time guidance on the best bunkering locations, including price and availability. When integrated with LR’s FOBAS fuel quality testing service, i4 helps customers optimize their bunker planning, simultaneously providing them with the most cost-effective fuelling locations while also reducing their carbon footprint.
“It’s a system designed for the best price, best location,” Meltzner commented. “However, cheap bunkers may meet one objective, while also leading to performance and maintenance issues during or after the charter. We aim to maximise all the potential benefits across procurement, price, performance and, of course, productivity.”
The BunkerEx integration follows earlier moves to integrate the C-MAP Commercial Business, Greensteam, FNT and Laros into the i4 platform. These companies provide electronic charts, voyage performance, condition monitoring, and remote monitoring services so ship managers can make efficiency gains in these respective business streams.
So, is it a hard sell? Meltzner admitted that it’s often not easy. The take-up at the executive level is relatively straightforward, he said, but at the technical level, sometimes it takes more effort, and he understands why. “That’s natural, really,” he said, “These teams have been doing this for years, so they’re going to be more sceptical of new approaches.” But eventually, the technical departments embrace the system after seeing how it can make their lives easier.
Meltzner reveals that the company’s approach is carefully managed. “If we’re talking to a ship master about voyage planning, for example, we make sure that one of our master mariners is deployed to have the conversation. Frequently, the two masters develop a rapport for mutual benefit.”
Collaboration in action
Although the company is bound by tight confidentiality agreements, Meltzner offers two examples of recent achievements. “Geneva-based ‘Charterer A’ has initiated a digital transition programme,” he explains, “and they latched on to our ‘single essential source of truth’ mantra. They have asked us to analyse their existing data to see whether a predictive model could be established to demonstrate the relative efficiencies of different vessels before they were fixed on certain trades.”
Alternatively, ‘Charterer B’ wanted an analysis of voyages to identify possible improvements to vessel performance. This involved a more operational focus, assessing likely outcomes and the relative financial implications.
Along with the direct benefits that come from the i4 Insight collaborative model, there are also some additional benefits available to clients. Speed and consumption claims, for example, are often a significant cost centre for dry and liquid bulk shipowners, keeping hundreds of highly paid litigation lawyers constantly busy. Ensuring the shipowners and their customers have access to the same information has the potential to knock out most of this major cost centre, which is a big plus-point for the finance team!