Pulse - The AI-driven solution for charterers

Shipping communication is changing - but optimised email data can keep a ‘pulse’ on the charter market

With evolving consumer demand and rising global challenges, charterers are continuing to adapt to a fast-moving market. By unlocking market data that lives in charterers’ inbox, Sedna’s new solution, Pulse, transforms their work and reveals a competitive advantage driven by AI.

By Bill Dobie, Founder & CEO, Sedna

The first time I dipped my toe into the field of maritime was in 1995 when I saw an ad in a newspaper for a position in chartering. 

Coming from primarily a computing background, the opportunity was new and exciting. It exposed me to both the shipping industry and - in light of the dot.com boom and my desire to enhance the industry’s paper-based ways of working - it also meant that I could put my programming skills into practice.

Having grown up with my mother working in the 1960s in a kind of de facto CTO role that we know today and having studied the subject at University, I had long-held a deep understanding and interest in technology and computing. 

Inspired by the early Millennium book Small pieces, loosely joined exploring the connectedness of the internet and how it was changing global culture, I began to think how this could apply to maritime technology. 

I built small internal tools at a number of shipping companies to help charterers and other roles in the industry speed up their processes, drive efficiencies and generate greater revenue. And over the following two decades, I developed around a dozen or so applications to optimise business processes and improve shipping workflows.

This experience was eye-opening. Rather than seeing a need to reinvent the wheel with new tech, my work shed light on what existing thing needed to be updated: email.

Email needs a makeover

While new maritime apps and tools continually enter the market in an attempt to streamline processes and bring about efficiencies, my experience showed me that this is merely adding to their work problem. Moving people off email simply results in more emails being sent. 

I realised that this was the thing we needed to tackle. Email was where the real pain point was. 

While once ubiquitous office systems like the fax machine have come and gone, and recent years have been transformed by the emergence and consumption of new social media and chat-based platforms, the email has not gathered dust. In fact, the number of emails sent and received each day last year was estimated at 347.3 billion — a 4% increase from 2022 — showing how it continues to dominate both work communication and action. 

For charterers and other supply chain professionals in particular, email is a tradeflow lifeline. On the global fleet scale, it is estimated that the number of emails sent through ship communication systems could well exceed 10 million per day. Given the complexity of global freight communications and the short and fast-changing deadlines that maritime professionals are working under, email has remained the sector’s go-to platform. 

Yet, despite being a fundamental protocol that everybody uses, there has been very little innovation within its fifty year history - leading to inbox overload, lost data and siloed operations. 

For cargo charterers who are dependent on receiving constant updates with real-time information reporting on open positions, cargo weights, and last cargoes, they may receive hundreds, if not thousands, of emails a day which are then manually copied and pasted into separate spreadsheets to view and action. With the frequent flow of incoming information and clunky and cumbersome copy+paste processes, there is little visibility on the key data within their inboxes, resulting in lost opportunities and higher cargo prices.

Similar pain points show for tonnage charterers, where the overwhelming and non-standardised data sent through constant streams of emails means that ships may run empty.

While various efforts like telex and digital marketplaces have launched over the years to push a better cargo and vessel fixture, charterers remain bound to email’s arduous ways. But instead of moving people away from email, people need easier access to the core data hidden within the inbox. 

Enter: Pulse

Acknowledging these limitations, my company, Sedna, recently launched a new AI-driven solution, Pulse. 

Pulse sits on top of the email inbox, transforming data from email and other systems into a single, consolidated and customisable view. It shortens the entire analysis process by presenting deduplicated data in a structured table ready for analysis and further action. 

Named in recognition of the idea of needing to keep a pulse on maritime activity, this new digital solution is already being used by existing Sedna customers, on top of our core data-driven communication product, Stream. 

We are forging a bold path ahead in the world of maritime digitalisation - in the case of Pulse to help charterers respond quicker to potential opportunities, stay ahead of the competition and give precious time back so that they can concentrate on market monitoring, analysis and deal negotiation. 

Chartering is changing 

Alongside almost every other global sector, shipping has gone through unprecedented and widespread change in recent years in response to global challenges. In addition to the decarbonisation and digitalisation movements creating new ways of thinking and changing plans, Brexit, COVID-19, climate change and geopolitical tensions have created a series of ongoing headaches for the sector and exposed the fragility of our supply chains.

Trade was majorly stripped back in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of reduced workforces, travel restrictions, smaller or displaced crews and the closure of production facilities. 

Yet, in later months during the pandemic peak, activity majorly rebounded. Exacerbated rates purposefully coincided with increased demand and limited availability of empty containers, with many global companies like Walmart, IKEA and others even chartering their own vessels to try and overcome disruptions. 

Even today the market is in a constant state of change with the emergence of shipping’s dark fleet and a growing cost-of-living crisis affecting price and demand. In fact, chartering itself is an intricate microcosm of the supply and demand model - a real time documentation of the constantly evolving landscape as goods are transported around the world. These daily fluctuations in the duration of charters, pricing, cargo amounts and vessel availability will naturally continue in the months and years to come based on supply and demand trends being set by both consumer spending and external events. 

This is where I envisage Pulse to really play a role. Today, with a critical need for rapid information sharing in times of unprecedented change, charterers must have quick access to the information they need to see and do their jobs confidently. Pulse offers a great opportunity to increase transparency and efficiency, playing its part in easing future supply chain volatility and disruptions. 

Shipping and shipping technology has come a long way since I first joined the industry. To keep up with today’s maritime business practices, you have to add value to where the work is done. 

By showing market data from email and other systems in an organised way, I hope that Pulse keeps the inbox as the beating heart of shipping communications and, in turn, keeps the world moving.

Bill Dobie, Founder & CEO of Sedna

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