How We’re Shaking Up The Oil & Gas Industry With A Digital Platform

We have designed and built a digital platform where oil & gas companies can hire vessels directly from vessel owners, leaving it up to the ship owners to choose if they require the assistance of an intermediate when bidding.

For the very first time, a single platform integrates a highly complex procurement system with a real-time marketplace for the oil & gas industry.

The Background

In the oil & gas industry, vessel procurement and management is handled by ship brokers, who manages the process when oil & gas companies need to hire vessels for various offshore operations. The ship broker’s role works as an intermediary between the oil & gas companies, and the vessel owners, by handling all the bidding activities and in some cases compiling offers and performing the tender evaluation on behalf of the oil & gas companies. Needless to say, ship brokers enjoy a delicate situation where they represent and manage both sides of a lucrative industry.

We knew we wanted to digitize a highly complex procurement system, but we didn’t know exactly how to do it. In other words, business as usual.

Creating A Better Marketplace With Technology

Vessel Admin is a startup entering a highly traditional industry that has yet to turn digital. By introducing a digital procurement system for the oil & gas industry, it’s shaking up how tenders are published and how bidding works, and also removing the need for ship brokers in the middle. In general, the operations of chartering vessels are very complex and time-consuming, not to mention — it’s all done manually, by phone, email, SMS and Excel sheets. These are probably the reasons why so few have tried to digitize this industry, since there are so many manual activities involved, and they are all related to a huge amount of data and the need for information about the market.

The Vessel Admin platform enables oil & gas companies to create vessel specs and bidders lists based on their specific needs, and to issue tenders and receive bids on those tenders directly in the platform. Ship owners on the other hand, can provide full overview over the technical and the commercial status of their vessels, and are able to place bids on all tenders that match their own fleet of vessels. Everything can be managed from both desktop and mobile devices, enabling the users to respond instantly to time-critical information.

The platform also introduces a much needed transparency to the oil companies and the ship owners. Ship owners get access to the same amount of information on the requirement, and oil companies get an overview over all bidders. This transparency removes the enormous amount of power that ship brokers have had in this industry since the very beginning, and moves the ownership of information from the brokers to the customers and suppliers.

How We Did It

Together with Norselab and a highly experienced industry expert with several years in the ship broker market, we started with a concept about how to digitize this industry. During intensive workshops, ideathons and design thinking sessions, we started to get an understanding of how to approach this huge opportunity. We knew we wanted to digitize a highly complex procurement system, but we didn’t know exactly how to do it. This was also something that didn’t yet exist in the Norwegian market, so we needed to keep it ‘under-the-radar’ as long as possible. In other words, business as usual.

It’s very helpful to have a well-tested service design framework that enables us to define, build and test products fast and efficiently, so that we can make iterations based on real user feedback, and adjust the product accordingly. The first rounds of prototyping gave us valuable feedback on how oil companies and ship owners normally operate, and how to digitize their workflow.

When we got closer to an MVP, we involved one of the leading players in the Norwegian oil & gas sector, so we could get real feedback from a potential customer. We learned a great deal by involving real users early in the process, and suddenly we realized that the platform we were building had become very different from our original sketches and expectations. Still business as usual, and a healthy sign of a good service design process.

More functionality has been added, as we have learned about key elements that both oil companies and ship owners need in order to operate efficiently. We have included several sources of information related to critical business operations for each side of the marketplace, such as a technical and commercial scoring system for vessels in the market and automated bidding processes with official documentation to cover compliance issues. A real-time status of over 3,600 vessels around the world give users valuable insight to a market in constant change. Vessel Admin is currently in a pre-launch stage, where invite-only companies have received access to the platform. It’s very exciting to be part of creating something new that challenges the status quo of large industries, and we look forward to the next weeks, months and years with this startup.

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