With shipping prices almost as changeable as the weather, forecasting costs within the maritime industry is rarely smooth sailing. Taking the lead on the theme for World Maritime Day 2018, ‘better shipping for a better future’, ATPI Griffinstone explains how, using the expertise of a travel management company (TMC), marine organisations can implement better cost management now in order to see better cost savings in the future
Effectively managing crew rotations to have the right people in the right place at the right time – when winds, swells and surges are against you – is no mean feat. Responding to external events that can change with significant pace causes any business additional pressures. For the shipping sector and its specialist TMCs, managing this whilst ensuring that safety is never compromised and cost and efficiency targets are met is all in a day’s work.
A good TMC should see itself as an extension of its shipping clients and be proactive in crafting a valuable travel management plan. It should be able to show organisations how to safely move mission-critical travellers from one location to another, and be able to streamline travel buying and hotel contracting for global operations. All this should also be supported by detailed data that offers transparent visibility into expenditure, covering everything from inoculation to visas, as well as air fares. However, just because a TMC can do all those things and more, doesn’t mean that it should be complacent and stop searching for new ways to improve already existing processes.
Demand for oil remains high, especially in business sectors like aviation and shipping – the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts a 30 per cent rise in demand for oil and natural gas in its World Energy Outlook report. As oil prices begin to recover and rise, the need for travel programmes also increases. Interestingly, in recent times of lower oil prices the need for closer attention on travel spend has ensured that many good practices are now commonplace. Taking an integrated approach to travel procurement, especially as spend is predicted to increase, ensures that efficiencies and savings can be maximised for the long term.
One of the biggest hurdles shipping companies struggle to overcome is having full oversight of the ‘total cost of port call’. To focus exclusively on airline fares is to run the risk of missing out key data, with costs such as port transfers, hotel stays and even mobile phones also important parts of the puzzle. A TMC can help you gain the best value for ground transport and can manage hotel programmes to provide you with the best-available rates. TMCs can also advise on expense management to help clients gain full visibility and keep firm control on overall spend in the air, on the ground and at sea.
Another area which is often forgotten is how travel can be integrated into HR operations. Most technology today can link in with personnel systems seamlessly, and allow marine businesses to better manage crew changes, set reminders for visa renewal and handle annual leave. Managers can access all of this at their fingertips and reduce the need for manual processes. A travel workflow management tool can provide overview of complex, end-to-end travel for the shipping sector and its ever-changing crew rotations. The right technology delivers important benefits such as better control, improved visibility, fast accessibility, greater process compliance and optimised traveller safety, as well as comprehensive reporting.
Not just relevant to the shipping sector, but to anyone handling business travel, is the need to continuously benchmark travel programmes against similar organisations, to make comparisons and improvements to policies. It goes without saying, refreshing policy rules and travel management plans regularly to keep initiatives current and up to date will always be essential, especially in fast-moving industries.
Of course, cost efficiency is just one route to a better future for all businesses and when it comes to managing travel for sectors as diverse and quick-moving as the marine industry, a good TMC will always find room for improvement.