A Singapore company has launched an online marketplace aimed at cutting operational costs and improving efficiencies in the maritime industry. Marine Online's e-commerce site currently features more than 10,000 product listings and 4,000 service providers peddling 10 marine services, including chartering, port agency, ship supply, crewing, and bunkering.
The online marketplace was three years in the making, said the company's COO Stephen Qi, who noted that the goal was to help reduce costs, improve efficiencies, and drive transparency in an industry that was highly specialised and fragmented.
Qi said: "Shipowners form the core of the shipping industry and is the source of business for all marine suppliers. However, recent global economic uncertainties place tremendous strain on shipowners to maintain their operations and this vicious cycle continues downstream to their suppliers."
With its aim to cut costs and promote open trade, he said the online platform would bring "sustainable profitability" back into the industry. The e-commerce marketplace, which also was accessible via a mobile app, would enable sellers across the globe to list their products and services, he added. The app is available on Apple iOS and Google Android.
To cater to the industry's unique requirements, Marine Online said it developed the site based on two key capabilities, namely, an artificial intelligence (AI) powered request-for-quotation (RFQ) feature and an online payment platform.
The RFQ function allows shipowners to request for quotations, reducing the time and cost needed to identify the right supplier as well as facilitating price and product comparison. It also addresses differences in language and culture.
In addition, transactions and evaluation data can be viewed in the seller's overall credit systems on the e-commerce site, which provides essential information to help shipowners' make their purchase decision. Stressing the role of this feature, Marine One said transaction values typically range in the hundreds and thousands of dollars and carry higher transactional risks.
Marine Online's vice president Bruno Bai said plans were underway to introduce more features within the next three to six months, including a credit evaluation system, 3PL (third-party logistics) support, a review and rating service, and financing services.
Tiger Cai, also a vice president at the company, said: "Credit has been the cornerstone in the marine industry for centuries. We hope to be able to develop a robust system and database, leveraging data science to support a holistic financing system that helps business development, especially for small and midsize businesses in the industry."
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