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ShipSupport are wholesalers for maritime spare parts and offer them in a customer portal based on Intershop The maritime market is on the eve of digitization

With more than one million products online available, direct sales without middlemen, global delivery and outstanding services, disrupted the maritime market. Now, they are looking for additional investors to scale up even further.

Whereas within the consumer market it is customary to be transparent about prices, delivery time and shipping costs, companies within the shipping industry are used to shield that information. "It is quite normal to work through middlemen, who all take their own margin." With the arrival of ShipSupport, these processes suddenly became transparent. For ship owners around the globe it is getting much easier to order their spare parts directly at the source without the intervention of third parties.

Even renowned and mature players had to get used to this new way of working. "We have knocked down quite a few traditions recently. But that doesn't matter, they are seeing the benefits it will bring to the maritime industry, though with a step-by-step pace according to ShipSupport".

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The maritime market is on the eve of digitization.

Maaike is convinced that the maritime market is on the eve of digitization. According to her, the fact that there are only a few platforms active worldwide is not because there is no need, but because it is complex to launch an initiative such as ShipSupport.

For example, there is no standard product database - such as ISBN numbers for books - in the industry. In fact, it is not unusual for type plates and item numbers to be taken out of the documentation by suppliers in order to protect their own trade. ShipSupport only connects suppliers when they give full transparency in their (OEM) product data and prices.

Customers from 62 countries and counting

ShipSupport chose to build the platform on the software of Intershop, which works well for companies with more complex e-commerce scenarios. Evident was trusted with the realization of the project. In addition to the extensive B2B experience of both parties, the speed of development was also an important success factor: "With a time-to-market of less than a year, this was much faster than other providers.”

Actually, the platform consists of three parts. First of all, there is MyShop, the webshop, where ship owners from 62 countries can order their spare parts. If they don't know the exact names or article numbers of the parts they need, they can explore their ship via MyFleet. The majority of their customers have a fleet of different vessels, built by different shipyards, and which can differ from one another in many ways.

"Sometimes we literally receive a photo from the parts. Via MyFleet, customers can now click on their ship and navigate through it, so that they can see exactly what they need." Gathering the necessary information for this section was incredibly time-consuming, but it will make a difference in the industry.”

Products worth tens of thousands of Euros are ordered online

Via MyConnection the full supply chain from customer to supplier can be automated, making the ordering process even more efficient. From customer to supplier and back again. Furthermore, additional features are added to make the customer order process as smooth as possible

"It may sound complex, but basically we do the same as any other online player: the customer has a question and we answer it," says Maaike. More than a million products are brought together on the platform. The selling price varies from just over one Euro to over € 67,000. "In the beginning, customers often placed small orders to test our platform. But now, all products are ordered via MyShop, MyFleet or MyConnection, including those worth thousands of Euros".

A key account easily represents twenty million Euros

Most ship owners have to replace one or more parts on a daily basis. Maaike explains that the purchase of a custom-built vessel costs an average of one hundred million euros. "In the thirty years that a ship usually lasts, you will have to spend an extra hundred million on maintenance. On an annual basis, the owners together spend some 36 billion Euros, even though the entire maritime market is not that big at all, with some 30,000 to 50,000 ship owners.

You can't make it without industry knowledge

According to Maaike, it is a major advantage that the scale-up can draw from the required network and corporate skills that can be obtained from the parent company Royal IHC. "You can have such a good idea, but as a new initiative and ‘name’ in the industry, you simply won't make it without a strong brand behind you". Maaike explains that the dimensions of the spare parts vary from a few centimeters to the size of an entire building. In addition to the enormous weight that can be involved, the industry also has to deal with the necessary and required international related paperwork and checks.

ShipSupport is looking for external shareholders

Since its launch, ten million Euros have been invested in the platform. So far, Royal IHC is the major shareholder, but ShipSupport is looking for external financiers. "Royal IHC has a good reputation in the industry, which means that it opens doors for us, but at the same time it keeps others closed".

Although ShipSupport is completely ring-fenced  from Royal IHC in terms of operation, customers and suppliers are sometimes reluctant at first to share business-sensitive information. By attracting new shareholders, ShipSupport wants to create an even stronger independent position in the marketplace. Also, the additional investments & knowledge / network shareholders brings, ensure that the company can scale up faster.

Recently, the company has moved from the start-up to the scale-up phase. "We are ready to ramp-up our business now and soon expect the corresponding figures." Maaike doesn't want to share exact turnover or growth figures, but she can tell us that in the first two months of 2020 ShipSupport has already achieved its full 2019 turnover.

Space for just a few platforms

Maaike expects that – as it happened in other industries - there will be a consolidation in the maritime market, after which only a few (digital) initiatives will remain. ShipSupport is not the only well-functioning platform, though to date it keeps a frontrunner position. "With today's possibilities, anyone can launch a web shop. The combination with our product data content and logistic service is what differentiates us globally.

At the moment, all (consolidated) shipments are still sent from a central hub in the Netherlands, but Maaike would like to open hubs in several continents. "It would be nice to always be close to the customer, wherever they are. ShipSupport has a number of competitors worldwide. "We're not in each other's waters yet because everyone has their own customer base, but this is of course going to happen. We are happy with our front-runner position and intend to keep it (working)!”

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