Jean-Hervé Jenn says shipping companies need better data to make fuel buying decisions
As rising fuel costs become an ever-greater part of ships' operating costs, UK-based software company Inatech Ltd. has told Ship & Bunker it's offering a new system to help shipping and bunkering companies optimise their practices.
BunkerTECH Shipping Solution is designed to help mid-size shipping companies make the best possible decisions about fueling, with data on relative prices in different ports on a route as well as price trends.
Inatech CEO Jean-Hervé Jenn said that, while systems providing this type of data are common in commodity trading, they're not widely used in shipping.
"The shipping industry is not one of the most technologically advanced industries," he said.
"When the price [of bunker fuel] was $200 it didn't really matter; now that it's $700 it does matter."
He said fuel costs represent 60 percent of shipping companies' operating costs, and a reduction of just a fraction of one percent in costs can save millions of dollars for a large fleet.
Software as a Service
And while a similar data system has already been available for companies that want to buy the software and handle the IT infrastructure themselves, Jenn said that the new version can run in the cloud.
That means Inatech can offer it in software as a service (SaaS) form, charging a subscription fee for each user and handling the administrative functions, something that is particularly useful for mid-size companies without large in-house IT departments.
Jean-Hervé Jenn, CEO, Inatech
When the price was $200 it didn't really matter; now that it's $700 it does
The system is also available for a one-time price of between $100,000 and $300,000, depending on the features included, Jenn said, and there's also a third option in which users pay based on a percentage of the fuel procurement or trading they do.
"That, I think, is a fairly innovative way of doing it," he said. "It's like if you were paying a broker commission."
In addition to the Shipping Solution version of the system, Inatech is selling a version called BunkerTECH Bunkering Solution for bunker suppliers, brokers and traders.
Jenn said that helps bunkering companies handle both their basic business and any paper trading that they choose to engage in.
"The profit margins in the bunkering industry are very tight," Jenn said. "It's the ultimate commodity product."
Jenn said the cloud-based software will be available for shipping companies early next year and for the bunkering industry later in 2013.
The company is demonstrating the systems this week at SIBCON 2012, the Singapore International Bunkering Conference.
Jenn said Inatech is also exploring the possibility of creating a third version of the software focused on independent paper traders, depending on interest.
"We will be testing the market," he said.