According to Peter Meijer most shipping companies still have a lot to learn from the recent developments in the airline industry. Sooner than other segments of international transportation, airline companies have come to realize that reducing their response time and organizational inefficiencies is vital for their profitability and their added value in general. Especially since low budget competitors have arrived in the marketplace. These days their entire organizations are focussed on the fact that an aircraft is only making money when it is in the air. Therefore support is organized as time- and cost-efficiently as possible and with the aim of minimizing the risks of delays because of avoidable operational errors.
For most shipping companies this is still a big challenge, says Peter Meijer, based on broad experience as a specialist in operational excellence in marine transportation. ‘What goes for the airline industry certainly goes for the shipping industry. Every minute a vessel is detained in port by organizational errors or inefficiencies is a direct and unnecessary loss. The alignment between the fleet operation and its support office staff and their network is therefore a key competence for shipping companies too. And there is still a lot to gain by most companies from this perspective,’ adds the man who is responsible for CFL Shipmanagement. ‘The same goes for CFL. Naturally we have the advantage that we are a young and horizontally organized shipping company. Our decision lines are short and we have highly motivated crews and support staff. But CFL and its fleet have expanded and will continue to do so. Because of this the complexity of our organizational structure has grown too. '‘Therefore it is my number one priority as fleet director to improve the communication from shore to offshore (and vice versa) and to make sure that all CFL-vessels and their crews have optimal data and technical and administrative support from our offices here in Amsterdam and in the rest of the world. We have already made some big steps, but there is still room for improvement.’
> Respected veteran
Peter Meijer (1953) is a respected veteran in Dutch shipping. Born in a family of marine engineers, he chose to be educated as one and set out for sea at a relatively young age. For sixteen years he was a crewmember aboard various vessels of the well known Dutch shipping company Van Ommeren, and afterwards made full use of his engineering skills as a technical advisor to the firm. When Van Ommeren strategically chose for storage, Meijer left the company and started with the shipping company: Gencharter. It was here that for the first time he was closely involved in the design, development and eventually crewing and maintenance of vessels that are especially fitted for the transport of project cargo. ‘From the beginning I found this a very interesting and promising segment of the business. But to be able to be successful, one must also build a flexible support organization and a strong commercial network. This previous experience helps me now to fit in with CFL and its market strategy more easily.’
Gencharter became part of the Beluga Shipping Group, and after the withdrawal of five vessels under its management Peter Meijer eventually decided to continue the crewing and technical support activities under a new name, Holland Ship Service. ‘We were rather successful, until the owners of the vessels under our management decided to sell them. That was in November of last year. At that same time Martin Remeeus, once a member of my team of naval officers and since a couple of years Commodore of CFL, suggested that I should meet Kees Koolhof and discuss the possibilities of co-operating with CFL.’
This contact led to the takeover of all crew related activities of Holland Ship Service, more commonly known as Greenfleet, by CFL and to inviting Peter Meijer to be in charge of CFL Shipmanagement. ‘It was a perfect fit from the beginning. Because of the expansion of its fleet CFL needs extra seagoing naval officers and reinforcement of their support staff. ‘Moreover, the former Greenfleet-crewmembers are enthusiastic about the move, because CFL offers them better career opportunities and the chance of sailing on some of the newest and most advanced vessels in international waters. For me personally, it meant an opportunity to shape a support organization according to my views and aligning it more efficiently with the rest of the CFL-operation.’
In his first days with CFL, Peter Meijer found an organization that is typical of a fast growing company; everything was there, but it lacked structure and routines. ‘CFL is in a different ball game now. We have in excess of 250 seagoing personnel worldwide on our payroll, with all the legal and administrative complexities that entails, and a support staff of more than 20 people at the moment and still a lot of vacancies to fill in. We have strong commitments to our commercial partners and have to operate in close harmony with them. For all these reasons we had to restructure our office organization.’
> First thing
The advantage of the experienced newcomer helped Meijer to take big steps in a relatively short period of time. ‘It also helped that the offices of CFL Shipmanagement were moved from Utrecht to the present location, in a redesigned former warehouse with a spectacular view of the port of Amsterdam. We made a fresh restart in every respect.’ First thing three new superintendents were appointed, each responsible for a team that arranges the operational support of a number of vessels. ‘Together they coordinate and arrange the dockings, maintenance in general, and are online with the engineering staff on board to provide them with all the technical support they need. All in all you could say that they manage everything operational, except crewing and freighting. The fact that every vessel has a direct contact who is responsible for smooth operation on shore, has contributed to a significant increase in cost- and time-efficiency so far.’
The purchase and crewing activities have been professionalized and refocussed, administrative and financial services uplifted, and the expansion of the existing IT-platform (based on the advanced Amos2-program) is underway. ‘That helps to streamline the purchase and payment processes even further, and to minimize operational risks and improve our average response time when a vessel needs assistance.’
Another important feature in a company that claims to be more sustainable in every respect than its competitors is the quality of the support in health and environment related issues. The Quality, Health, Safety & Environment department has therefore been reorganised. Primarily to be able to stand closer to the ball. But also because the whole process of being compliant with national and international rules and legislation has become a strenuous and complex task.
‘We are well underway with improving our operational excellence,’ says Peter Meijer. ‘It provides CFL with a better footing for further growth and development.’