It’s a match! New hiring platform for the maritime industry

Working in the shipping industry can be a gruelling, challenging and mentally trying journey – which is why it is imperative that shipping companies understand the skills and background of their seafarers to correctly match them up with tasks. Frankie Youd learns how maritime tech company Seafair aims to assist hiring through its digital platform.

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Working in a notoriously demanding career, seafarers come up against many challenges, sleepless nights, incessant working hours, and uncertainty surrounding how long they will spend onboard vessels. During the Covid-19 pandemic, awareness around these issues has been brought to light with many companies offering aid to seafarers in the form of mental health training, industry initiatives, and guidance and opportunities surrounding their skill set.

New York maritime tech company Seafair has developed a platform to help seafarers working within the industry correctly match with jobs and tasks, ensuring their workloads are reflective of their skills. The platform matches seafarers with shipping companies via an algorithm that holds data on the seafarer’s background, skills, and performance onboard a vessel.

Where it all began

The complementary crew software technology developed by Seafair was created after the company’s founder, Agapitos Diakogiannis, moved to the US to join New York-based venture capital firm FJ Lab.

While working there, Diakogiannis noted that there was a new wave of digital labour marketplace technology within the oil and gas industry that allowed contractors to be selected and vetted carefully before being given tasks and job roles. Given his background in shipping, Diakogiannis began exploring what this technology could offer for the maritime industry.

“I saw a new wave of digital labour marketplace in traditional industries like construction, manufacturing, and oil and gas. I saw start-ups using data and technology to vet labour and found this exciting. Given my interest and background in shipping, I started exploring whether a digital labour marketplace made sense in the maritime industry.

“I spent three weeks in the Philippines working with local manning agencies and talking to several seafarers. The processes I saw and the stories I heard convinced me that maritime crewing, and the actors involved in it, can benefit a lot from technology and data.”

Since its launch in late 2020, Seafair has already acquired several clients including a top 100 shipping company. Currently operating in New York, Berlin, Athens, Odessa, and Manila, the company aims to build a diverse, inclusive, and transparent culture and community for its workforce and seafarers alike.

How does it work?

Through the software developed within the Seafair platform, data is collected on seafarers' backgrounds, their skill sets, and performance on vessels. This data is then input into the software’s algorithm, which allows shipping companies to match the individuals to the most relevant vacancy depending on their skill set.

To get started, seafarers are required to create a profile on the Seafair platform, where they can upload certificates and sea service documentation. From there, the system then runs background checks on the uploaded documents to ensure that the information is correct and validated. Once verified, the seafarer’s information will go live on the platform, allowing shipping companies to view the profile.

The algorithm included within the software matches the seafarers to the most relevant vacancy advertised by shipping companies based on vessel specifications as well as the specific criteria of individual shipping companies.

Diakogiannis explains: “Our shipping clients are given access to our platform, where they can review vetted seafarer profiles. Our clients can schedule interviews on the platform, and when they want to hire a seafarer, they can generate digital contracts and complete the hiring process within minutes.”

The technology also allows shipping companies to have access to seafarer data in all stages of the hiring process. Once a seafarer has been hired the shipping company can continue to use the platform whilst the seafarer is onboard via digital contracts, work schedules, payments, training sessions, and appraisals. The technology also allows a seafarers' training process to be restructured, allowing for higher ranks within the crew to be established and prepared for faster.

With all the data and information being digitalised this allows the shipping company to keep track of all the information and store it in one place. “Gathering all this data is extremely important for shipping companies, not only because it helps them automate back-office work, but mostly because it gives them transparency when they need to make a crewing decision,” Diakogiannis says.

The future of the industry: the benefits

With the shipping industry struggling to stay on top of seafarer management due to the Covid-19 pandemic, thousands of seafarers became stranded on board vessels, and many were tasked with unfamiliar duties and felt overwhelmed with the workload. Could digital platforms be the way forward for the industry?

Technology such as the platform developed by Seafair allows seamless communication to be developed between shipping companies seafarers, which is vital for the overall running of the vessel.

“Our thesis is that crewing is and has to remain a human centric function in shipping. The technology we've built around seafarer vetting promotes transparency and ensures that the seafarers who deserve the best opportunities will be able to get them,” Diakogiannis says.

One other key benefit that the technology brings is a reminder function, notifying when a seafarer’s certificate is due to expire, or when a rest break is due,  which – especially during the Covid-19 pandemic – is vital for the overall mental wellbeing of seafarers.

With the technology already being utilised by leading maritime companies, it is hoped that more will partner with Seafair to optimise their crew management operations and skillset centric means of hiring.