Giving more to the human experience through digitized processes

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Allen Falkenberg, group managing director crew management of V. Group.

“I like to waste money on bus fare, sit for six hours in traffic and stand in queues only to be told at the end that my papers aren’t complete and my money isn’t enough,” said no one ever.

Any organization that still insists on its applicants or potential members doing their business in person, when almost everything can be done via the Internet, should close down

Any organization that still insists on its applicants or potential members doing their business in person, when almost everything can be done via the Internet should close down.

Seriously. This includes banks, government agencies, schools — any entity with forms to fill out. (By the way, putting up a PDF online, requiring people to still print it out, manually fill it up, scan and send it back does not count. I’m looking at you, BIR).

Imagine the relief of the maritime community, then, when the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) launched the Marina Integrated Seafarer Management Online (Mismo) System earlier this month. Now, seafarers can apply for and receive their seaman’s books, pay for assessments and certifications and verify documents online.

There are around 400,000 Filipino seafarers deployed overseas, who remit about $5.8 billion annually. It’s just right that these unsung heroes of the Philippine economy get some concessions when looking for employment.

In Metro Manila alone, there are some 300 manning/crewing agencies. Every day, every one of them welcomes seafarers from far and near looking for gainful employment. Only one of them, however, has Embark, a “global initiative” to improve the delivery of its crewing service through tech and digitized processes. This is V. Group, a leading global provider of maritime support services, including crew management and recruitment, ship management and technical services.

I recently had the opportunity to tour their facilities and experience Embark firsthand.

Three things stood out for me. First was when Allen Falkenberg, group managing director crew management of V. Group, credited as the visionary for this program, said that the idea isn’t wholly theirs. “To be responsive to clients needs globally, you have to reach out to other industries and see what we can learn from them.” He singled out the big airlines, who have had for many years now the technology to manage hundreds of movements and staffing within their organizations at any given time. “Here (the maritime industry), we are (still) quite manual in some of those processes. Whereby the airline industry and others have invested in such optimization and technology. This is what we’re doing now and what we’re excited about — it’s better for long term planning and (catching) issues.”

Imagine the relief of the maritime community, then, when the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) launched the Marina Integrated Seafarer Management Online (Mismo) System earlier this month

It was just refreshing for me to hear a leader acknowledge that such a groundbreaking program was by no means original, but influenced by existing, working systems.

Second was the V. Group’s unique “seafarer’s journey”: a jobseeker or recruit can search for openings or assignments in person or online that match their rank and skillset, complete the application online at home or using one of the office computers, and — this is the most impressive — completing the rest of his application with the V. Crew Connect mobile app.

This mobile app, made available with a unique ID, will be the seafarer’s “digital support system” so to speak, throughout his employment.

“For seafarers,” says Falkenberg, “this means they can manage their lives better — (know what they need to) be fully ready to be deployed, know where they’re going next, what kinds of vessels they’ll be deployed to.” V. Ships has 1,700 vessels and 44,000 seafarers — 4,000 of whom are Filipinos.

The mobile app also includes a payroll module, which eliminates the need of having to go through the shipmaster, agency, bank or recipient, to check on one’s balance or earnings.

“Once it’s there, you can follow your money in real time — is it processed, has it been remitted,” says a representative from V. Ships. “We will be giving our seafarers accessibility over their earnings and transparency to see where their money goes.”

The module will likewise store historical data of the seafarer’s payroll in PDF form — very convenient for those needing the document.

The V. Crew Connect mobile app will be introduced in phases, with a first rollout in India this month, and will go live in other regions in April 2019.

Third is that V. Ships, through a feedback feature on the app, will be actively seeking “ratings” from its seafarers about this service. “We are interested in how we are delivering this service to them,” says Falkenberg. “We don’t see our seafarers as customers, but sometimes (you have to treat it that way). A highly trained captain can choose from any of the agencies here in Manila, but if he has to go there just to scan a passport and take a bus for six hours and back again, he will start looking around and ask if someone can make the journey a bit better for him. Our motto is ‘We care’ — it’s kinda corny, but absolutely true.

We look into that experience for our seafarers so they can go back to their families and enjoy their lives.”

Feedback is welcome at vivalogos@icloud.com.

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