* By subscribing to the latest news from our blog, you consent to us storing your email address, and sending you monthly emails. You can, at any time, retract this consent.
Based in Hamburg, TB Marine Shipmanagement specialises in Liquid Chemical, Product and Oil Tanker transportation. The company was founded in 2005 and has grown to become a medium-sized niche player in the energy market with technically sophisticated vessels that serve the needs of all major oil companies and oil traders.
TB Marine Shipmanagement’s tonnage carries Chemical Products, Clean Petroleum Products and Dirty Petroleum Products worldwide for all Oil Majors and Traders. With 1,500 seafarers and 60 office staff, the company manages a tanker fleet of 38 vessels, 10 product tankers and 28 chemical tankers.
Sharing documents and documentation between the office and the vessels is a crucial element supporting TB Marine Shipmanagement's world-class operations. For this purpose, the company has relied heavily on email-based solutions. However, due to the limitations of email for day-to-day file exchange between shoreside operations and ships at sea, sending large files was cumbersome and time-consuming.
TB Marine Shipmanagement's IT manager, Thomas Dinter, elaborates:
– The file size limit was always an issue. Email servers sometimes allowed 10 MB files, sometimes 5 MB files – you couldn't be sure. Our office made a rule of thumb; sending 10-15 MB would probably work, but we'd need to find a different method for anything bigger..
Attachments need to be downloaded and files must be saved in the right location, adding to the hassle of manual handling, says Dinter.
– When you get an email, you have to download the attachment. Some of our departments have a very complex folder structure. This attachment has to be in that folder, and that attachment in this folder, and so on. It’s a slow process that wastes workers’ time and costs money.
Furthermore, trying to send messages from ship to shore via email was often frustrating for Ship Masters:
– There’s also the connection issue with the satellite, and sometimes the captain would call and say: “I've been trying to send the message for two hours, but it won't go through. It’s a very important message, what on Earth should we do?”
To distribute files larger than 50 MB as quickly as possible, TB Marine Shipmanagement had to connect remotely to the vessel and transfer the files manually. However, this approach would tie IT personnel up for hours, explains Dinter.
– You’d have to sit in front of the computer and watch the progress bar slowly crawl along, hoping that the transfer would succeed without stopping halfway through. As a result, they weren't doing work that added value.
TB Marine Shipmanagement would send files too large for email or remote connection as physical DVDs by regular mail. Material sent via a postal service around the world, from ship to shore, and the other way around, could take up to three months to arrive. Sometimes, it never made it through.
– In some regions, we were at the mercy of customs and strict regulations. Every time we sent DVDs to our ships in Saudi Arabia, for instance, the package would come back with this message: “We do not accept DVDs”.
Over time, handling data distribution between their onshore offices and their fleet required too much attention, monitoring, and manual intervention. The company's bottom line was being affected.
TB Marine Shipmanagement needed an agile, easy-to-use data transfer solution that could automate and improve their workflow and reduce manual intervention. Most importantly, they needed a system that could handle data transfer activities unattended, without personnel having to deal with attachments or standing around watching progress bars.
It was against this backdrop that the management asked Dinter to find a solution that could increase efficiency and save time so that workers, both onshore and at sea, could focus on important tasks.
– We were already working with Dualog at the time, and they told us they were working on a new maritime data transfer tool, continues Dinter.
– They asked us if we'd be interested in testing the beta version and helping them improve it. I happily accepted the offer but told them we’d need to look at OneDrive and Dropbox as well. After comparing the three solutions, we decided Dualog® Drive was the perfect fit for our shipping company.
From the outset, a crucial question for TB Marine Shipmanagement was whether or not the solution allowed them to define specific folders on both sides, to copy/sync data effortlessly, from different sources to different destinations.
– With Dropbox or OneDrive, I didn’t find the option to say, “Okay. I’m just interested in this folder and that folder, and I want to do this for the whole fleet.” I guess you could do this manually, but we didn't want to do that. We wanted to control it centrally. Dualog® Drive enables us to use the current folder structure in the office and onboard to transfer the files.
Also, due to communication needs, manually connecting Dropbox or OneDrive would require them to whitelist lots of IP addresses. In the end, a land-based data transfer solution would end up requiring even more effort to make it work as intended.
Another critical factor for TB Marine Shipmanagement was the cost of megabytes and how OneDrive or Dropbox will not allow the company to differentiate between files.
– With Dualog, you have the option to say, “Okay, some files are important, and we can send them via our backup system, which has high prices for megabytes.” If there is some really important material to transfer, we can say, “This special folder is also allowed to go via this expensive communication system instead of the common one.” This is not possible with OneDrive or Dropbox; they use all Internet connections, and if the wrong file is in, it will be very costly!
So, the jury is in: Has TB Marine's office staff and ship crew been able to save time using Dualog® Drive?
– Absolutely! We've freed up a lot of time with Dualog® Drive, which improves productivity and cuts costs. Previously, when we sent files via email, the recipients had to manually check the email and download attachments. Thanks to Dualog® Drive, they now get a message saying the file they need is in the folder.
The main benefit for Dinter and his IT team is not having to constantly check the progress bar when transferring large files.
– Using our old solution, sending 60 MB of data took about three or four hours, while we kept the window open, anxiously checking on it every few minutes. Well, you're not paid for watching a progress bar; you're paid for doing something worthwhile.
We've freed up a lot of time with Dualog® Drive,
which improves productivity and cuts costs.
– Thomas Dinter, IT Manager
– With Dualog® Drive, you just sit back and let it do the work; you don't have to look after it. If an ongoing transfer needs attention, the system immediately tells you. The days of wasting time on email or snail mail are over. We don't just save man-hours, time, and money with Dualog® Drive, we save headaches, too!
To learn more about TB Marine Shipmanagement and the services the company offers, visit their website.
Kristian Olsen is a member of the Product Management Group at Dualog. A true Dualog old-timer, Kristian has served in several roles at the company, ever since it was founded in 1994. He holds a Master’s Degree in Information Technology from UiT The Arctic University of Norway. Kristian likes to “get in the zone” both onshore and offshore, as he is an avid cross country skier as well as a windsurfer with several national championships under his belt.