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10 March 2016
Group’s arm's-length data operation 'works the way the industry works'

The latter includes the company’s superyachts brokerage — chartering, crewing and management operation Yachting Partners International (YPI) — in Monte Carlo with 38 employees, plus information/technology arms like broking information platform AXSMarine embracing, among others, AXSTanker, AXSDry, Alphaliner, Alphabulk and Alphatanker.

BRS boss Tim Jones believes 90% of tanker brokers worldwide, for example, are on AXSMarine and between 70% and 75% of all dry cargo brokers. Some 60% is owned by BRS and 40% as an investment by Oldendorff Carriers.

A total of 120 people, including programmers, data specialists and sales personnel, work for AXSMarine, one of the survivors of the dot.com boom and now claiming over 5,000 users, with an average of 2,800 users connected on the AXSMarine systems at any one time.

AXSMarine largest clients

It is understood that some of the largest clients are the big UK shops who use the online tools and databases that pool vessel, cargo and calculation information in a single place, with in-house e-mail recognition and data extraction, as well as message board tools for managing companies’ information flow.

“BRS started this in 2000 and we were well before our time,” said Jones.” A lot of companies didn’t even have Internet at the time. It was our insurance against a ‘Level­Seas’ started by principles but we believed, and still believe, brokers have the know-how and can provide input to develop the tools that our industry needs.”

The position of every ship, for example, is tracked, where it has been and probability of where it is going so that trade maps can be created.

“Shipping has always been opaque. It annoys owners who don’t want their ships to be known or charterers who don’t want their cargo destinations known. But it gets known none the less. This is part of the information technology world,” he said.

Jones added: “It allows you immediate information on layups, how many ships in which bay, for example. You can get that stuff from AIS but what this does is allow us, the broker, to connect commercial information with AIS information and analytical tools which distinguish AXSMarine from other AIS providers.

“In future, it will be possible to create the whole life of a ship and calculate how much she earned during the course of it. Transparency is wanted by all the regulators but not by those that play in the grey areas. As far as we are concerned it is something that is coming and it has to be done.”

He describes Alphaliner as the “industry reference, a deeper analysis of the movers and shakers” for the containership industry. More than 1,000 companies are subscribers, including “basically all the top 20 liner companies”.

But why should brokers put money into the pockets of one of their rivals by subscribing?

“We have been very careful about creating an AXSMarine independent from BRS,” replied Jones, who insists that the shareholders are treated exactly the same as every other user and pay the same tariffs.

“It is truly arms’ length and will remain so, although of course we are part of the decision-making on whether to develop this or that first and we have people that contribute to the brain storming on what the industry wants.

“There is also the element of the community because you can share commercial information and ships’ positions with your clients [and foreign offices] and verify your calculation together. These are all tools we [brokers] use all the time, with feeds of ships’ technical parameters, bunker prices, port expenses, distance tables with ECA [emissions control area]/piracy zones, which are all embedded.”

Said Jones: “The community shares the cost rather than all of us trying to go it alone.”

Currently, the split between brokers and principals subscribing is around 40:60 for dry cargo but 100% brokers when it comes to tankers.

But, said Jones: “More and more principals are coming on because of the tools like positioning, information on ship types, consumption, trading history, port expenses and distance tables.”

High throughput

On managing companies’ information through the central platform, Jones says BRS’ dry cargo department alone receives 3,000 to 4,000 messages per day and that is “tough to keep up with”. But an even tougher task for some of its larger principals who handle maybe 12,000 to 15,000 each day, he says.

The system updates “instantly” positions and cargoes, monitors the source of messages and attaches the message to the cargo or position. “AXSMarine works the way the industry works,” said Jones.

“There are well over 1,000 companies subscribing… and turnover is similar to that of the Baltic Exchange with a positive revenue stream. We are reinvesting all the time to develop, so far with tankers, dry cargo, containers and offshore models.

“In addition to offering soon an embedded communication system, more analytical tools, the next thing to come will be a [sales-and-purchase] S&P module because there is all that information already gathered in each sector. It ties them together.”

Source: Tradewinds

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