Grinding out success

Offering a range of rolling stock engineering, as well as maintenance, restoration and infrastructure services, Loram UK Ltd is one of the rail industry’s most versatile organisations

To those in the industry, Loram is probably best known as an equipment manufacturer for on-track machines, and predominantly, rail grinders. “That’s the biggest chunk of the turnover, it’s the biggest chunk of the market awareness, and the biggest chunk of the business is spent servicing that sales pipeline,” says Business Development Director Andrew Watson. However, it is clear from talking to Andrew that there is much more to Loram than just grinders.

Loram UK Ltd was established in 2016, when Minnesota-based Loram Maintenance of Way purchased Derby’s Railway Vehicle Engineering Loram aLimited (RVEL) to help expand its presence in Europe. “Loram had reached significant market share in North America and so began to obtain complementary businesses around the world,” Andrew explains. “It saw the UK as being a strategic target for growth.”

Following the purchase of Friction Management, a rail lubrication firm, RVEL became the second company Loram acquired. “RVEL had a long-standing relationship with Network Rail and was the five-year owner of a contract to maintain their infrastructure monitoring fleet,” recalls Andrew. “Loram needed an entity that understood the in-country nuances to help it win work in the UK, hence the decision to buy RVEL.”

Since then, Loram has been on what Andrew describes as a ‘journey of strategic acquisitions’ and the company now has a presence across five continents. Andrew suggests that the company is already starting to reap the benefits of its international expansion. “We are now the proud owners of the EMEA region of the world to mine for opportunities,” he states. “Not necessarily the UK-based traction and overhaul type of work, but Loram products and services export very well into the European, Middle Eastern and North African markets.”

The Middle East remains a particularly strong area of focus for Loram. The company currently has machines in Dubai and Saudi Arabia, but further expansion is high on the firm’s agenda. Loram’s American roots have been a valuable asset in helping to make the venture a smooth process. “The further east you get, the more typical infrastructure and regulation legislation culture fits with the American way of doing things,” Andrew expounds. “Saudi Arabia are very closely aligned with the States for other hardware exports, and the Saudi capacity for American standards suits our business really well.”

Engineering services
Of course, this does not mean that Loram will be abandoning its significant business interests in Europe, but Andrew is unafraid to talk about some of the challenges the region presents for a company with its origins in the USA. “In Europe, the sign-off process for any type of rolling stock is significantly different to North America,” Andrew asserts, “so we’re always exploring ways to bring products to market in Europe more successfully and more efficiently. We’d like to take on some of the bigger players, and we want to operate in that environment.”

In the UK, Loram sees itself as uniquely qualified to support both vehicular and on-track engineering and maintenance needs. “We have a parent company with almost 70 years’ experience working with on-track machines, and the reputation of Loram products – which have been on the UK market since the early 90s – are significantly revered,” Andrew declares. “This is on top of the long-term maintenance contract we’ve had for Network Rail’s IM fleet, which is largely a rolling stock, coaching stock fleet.”Loram b

This contract, which Loram inherited with the purchase of RVEL in 2016, expires at the end of 2020. As a result, winning the opportunity to service the IM fleet for a further five years is one of the company’s major goals for the coming months. “It’s absolutely front and centre in our minds,” Andrew comments. “We are actually hoping that there is a mechanism in the contract to introduce a new type of fleet to help create a more uniform, module approach to carrying their monitoring equipment. We feel that our close working relationships with GBRf for rail ops, and with Sperry Rail for measuring equipment, will put us in good stead for offering Network Rail a full infrastructure monitoring service.”

Within the last five years, Loram has also undertaken a number of overhaul, modification and enhancement projects for some of the industry’s biggest names, including Siemens, Bombardier and Porterbrook. “We are very selective about which tenders we apply to in that environment. We tactically steer clear of franchise refreshers, and instead, concentrate more on bespoke engineering solutions,” Andrew remarks. “Over the past 12 to 18 months, a lot of the projects have been involving alternative propulsion systems. A key complement to these types of work streams is the ability for Loram to collect and deliver rolling stock, utilising our mainline operator licence and pool of train drivers. We see this as something unique in this market segment.’’

It’s an area of the business that Andrew is clearly proud of, and a service he hopes consumers will begin to more freely associate with the company. “People will know Loram because of on-track machines, rail grinders, and our ten-year commitment to the Network Rail IM contract. There won’t be many people who know us for the bespoke engineering service we can offer as well.”

As Loram grows and adapts, investment in the company’s future continues. Alongside a newly introduced benefits package for its staff, the organisation will be relocating its office space later this year and there are plans to invest in more training to help increase the 57competence and capability of its personnel. “We have a capital expenditure plan that spans into the millions over the next three or four years that will help us upgrade the site,” Andrew says. “Later this year we will be increasing the fuel tank capacity in the yard, as well as introducing an LPG fuelling facility. We are improving back office amenities, we’re committed to a long-term apprenticeship scheme, and our physical infrastructure is being changed quite drastically.

“From a business point-of-view, we’re setting up an operational control in readiness for when we start operating machines on the network under our own banner. We have a license to run trains on the network, and if we can do it in the UK, there’s no reason why we can’t go on to run trains on other networks too.”

To summarise, Andrew enthused that the horizon looks extremely positive for Loram. “With our diverse but complementary market offering, sizeable UK infrastructure and comprehensive workshop and site in Derby, along with our mainline operator licence, we have expertly positioned ourselves to offer a high calibre of service to the industry’s key players.”

Loram UK Ltd
Services: A leading supplier of track maintenance and friction management services and equipment


Keeping track

TLI put some questions to Tobyn Hughes, Managing Director of Transport North East andand Director General of NexusNexus, to get , an insight into how the company has performed over the last 12 months, which has been a period of opportunities and challenges

How has Nexus been performing since it was last featured in our magazine around a year ago?
It had been a great 12 months forNexus prior to the coronavirus outbreak. We are looking ahead to work starting on the new train fleet and Nexus adepot for the Tyne and Wear Metro. The appointment of a supplier for the new trains was an historic moment. We have also seen a number of other major projects come close to fruition. The impact of the coronavirus crisis is, of course, a massive setback, but we are determined to overcome it and keep looking ahead to a bright future for Nexus and public transport in our region. Times are tough but I believe we must keep our eyes on the prize.

Would you be able to tell us about any of the recent contracts/projects that the company has been focused on delivering?
The award of the Metro fleet contract to the train manufacturer, Stadler, is a major focus for us going forward. We aim to see the first new trains in service by 2023.

We have also secured Government funding to the tune of £100m for what we call the Metro Flow project. This will see an existing freight line upgraded and electrified in South Tyneside from September 2022, making it capable of carrying Metro services, boosting the capacity for an extra 30,000 passenger journeys every day. Metro Flow was given the green light by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the Budget. The funding of £95m from 25the Government’s Transforming Cities Fund, will allow Nexus to deliver a scheme costing £103m in total. It’s great news for Metro passengers.

The project will involve the conversion of an existing heavy rail line, bringing it into dual use so that Metro services can run alongside freight services, which is similar to the operations we have on the Sunderland line. One of the key points of Metro Flow is that it increases the frequency of Metro services system-wide from 12 minutes to ten minutes outside of the central areas. For our passengers this means more regular services, and faster journey times. This project also gives us scope to examine future opportunities to expand the network to other areas that are currently not served by Metro services.

Three sections of single track on the Metro network totalling three kilometres will be dualled between Pelaw and Bede Metro stations. There are three single-track sections on the Metro network, where trains must use the same line in both directions. The sections of line are located Nexus bbetween Pelaw and Hebburn (800 metres), Hebburn and Jarrow (1.4km) and Jarrow and Bede (600 metres).

Nexus is currently in the process of replacing its entire Metro fleet. Could you tell us a bit more about this?
In January we announced a preferred bidder for a £362m contract to build new trains for the Tyne and Wear Metro which will transform performance and passenger experience. Stadler, based in Switzerland, was chosen after a year-long global search for the best manufacturing partner for 42 new trains to be delivered up to 2024.

Our passengers expect the best in the world when they travel, and that is what they will get from our new trains. Stadler has an excellent track record building new trains for cities and regions across the world. The company will put in place new supply chains in North East England and the UK, securing local jobs. I was delighted to welcome Stadler as we make this historic £362m investment in Metro’s future. We asked for the best trains for the best price – based on what local people said they wanted to see, providing excellent reliability for years to come, transforming the passenger experience and delivering huge energy savings.

Stadler has delivered on all fronts, and we look forward to working with our new partner and the extensive UK supply chain, which will support them not just to build new trains but maintain them over the next 35 years.

The new trains, based on the ideas and suggestions of more than 3000 passengers, will cut Metro’s high voltage power consumption by 30 per cent while providing Metro’s 36m passengers with modern features including wifi, charging points, air conditioning and a step-change in accessibility.

Stadler has a track record of delivering excellence in technology, reliability and 26comfort. It is already delivering new trains for the Glasgow Subway; the Greater Anglia franchise into London from Cambridge, Norwich and Essex; Transport for Wales; plus Liverpool, where the company has its UK base in a state-of-the-art maintenance hub. Its trams are already running on the Croydon Tram network and tram-trains in Sheffield. Locomotives built by Stadler are in service on networks operated by Chiltern, Scotrail and TransPennine Express across Northern England.

The company has also built trains, locomotives and carriages to serve passengers across the world, with recent orders including trains for Berlin, Atlanta, California and as far afield as Brazil. A team of more than 30 Metro managers, external industry experts plus financial and legal advisers, worked through thousands of pages of technical data and detailed design visualisations from rival bidders.

Companies wanting to build Metro’s £362m new train fleet and depot were challenged to deliver the maximum quality, reliability and energy Nexus cefficiency within a strict price ceiling.

Metro’s loading gauge – the limits of weight and height the system operates in – meant Nexus could demand a unique train built to serve the people of North East England for years to come. Stadler has forged new partnerships with more than 30 UK companies in manufacturing, technology and construction as it prepares to build new trains for Metro – around half in North East England.

Nexus invited potential train builders to attend events organised by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, connecting them with a vibrant local supply chain.

Stadler will work with companies across the region to build North East expertise into Metro’s new trains – from specialist glass, cabling and internal finishes through to the crucial drive mechanism – as well as using local expertise to build a £70m new depot.

These new partnerships will endure for up to 35 years as Stadler maintains the new trains for Nexus, employing around 100 people directly, securing jobs through the supply chain and making its own commitments to training and research.

The new trains are to be built at Stadler’s St Margrethen plant in northern Switzerland.

Can you also give me some more details about the new £70m train depot as part of the above programme?
We’re really looking forward to the work starting on our new depot. It’s long overdue and will deliver a step change in the quality of our train maintenance facilities. Stadler will build and run a £70m new maintenance facility at Metro’s current depot site in South Gosforth, Newcastle, as nexus dpart of the deal, creating scores more jobs in construction and employing around 100 people directly. The work on this new facility is set to start in August. The current Metro depot buildings have been there since 1923, so 28we really do need more modern facilities for our new trains and the workforce that is going to maintain them. We will be gradually transitioning to the new depot. A temporary depot in North Tyneside will be ready by the summer allowing us to stable some of the fleet there while this process takes place over the next three years.

In the summer of 2020, the company is planning on opening the Nexus Learning Centre. Could you tell us a bit more about this facility and its creation?
The work on our new £9m Learning Centre is nearing completion and we expect to have it in use later this year. This will bring all of our organisation’s training needs under one roof in a modern, new facility in South Shields town centre. It will represent a long overdue move away from our current training set up, which has seen many of the sessions conducted in old mobile classrooms that have seen better days. This facility will transform the quality of the training that we provide to the Nexus workforce and industry partners, ensuring we keep Metro part of everyday life for the 100,000 people who use the service every day. It will also be the place where our diverse workforce will go to develop themselves professionally, and to work on strategies to improve what we do and how we do it.

I see that over the past ten years, Nexus has spent £300m on infrastructure – can you give a few more details on where this has been invested, and what future plans you have in this area?
It’s hard to believe that ten years ago we embarked on our infrastructure modernisation programme. In that time, we have invested £323m in a vast range of schemes, including track replacement, overhead line, station refurbishments, bridges, tunnels and other key pieces of new technology that will ensure we have a Tyne and Wear Metro system for many decades to come. The programme also included a three-quarter life refurbishment of the existing Metro train fleet which was completed in 2014.

We’re often asked why we didn’t we renew our train fleet sooner. The answer is that in 2007 we simply had to secure money for the ageing infrastructure of Metro. The system was built in the late 1970s but many of its alignments date back to the 19th century. Since 2010 our projects teams have worked tirelessly delivering the renewal programme and they’ve accomplished so much. Going forward we are talking to the Government about extending the asset renewal programme to areas we haven’t been able to cover.

As a provider of a key service, how is Nexus dealing with the impact of Covid-19?
What has been heartening is how our workforce has risen to the challenge, especially frontline key workers who are out there every day carrying out their jobs when the rest of us are in lockdown. I am immensely proud of the efforts our staff are putting in at this time of national emergency. Key workers are the real heroes of this crisis.

It is good news that the Government is providing £8.6m of emergency financial relief to the Tyne and Wear Metro system. The Metro and the Shields Ferry are public services and their importance to the economic and social life of our region cannot be understated. This has been highlighted during the coronavirus crisis when we have been providing a regular service to make sure that key workers can get around.

This has come at a financial cost though; our fare during the lockdown period, leaving a financial blackhole of more than £10 million in our budget. The Government’s funding of £8.6 million covers around 80 per cent of that and is very welcome, but it still leaves a funding gap that we need to close.

“We also have funding shortfalls on the Shields Ferry and in other areas. We will have to look at our other activities, saving money and redirecting funding where we can.

“We are now focusing on getting ready to support the region’s economy if and when the Government starts to lift the lockdown. Both the Metro and Shields Ferry will be there to play their full role when they are needed. We do not however expect to return to pre-crisis levels of ridership for many months to come, and this will continue to create a financial challenge long into the future. We look forward to working with the Government to ensure that the Metro is put on a long-term financially sustainable footing.

Metro staff have received a number of thank you notes from passengers recently. What are the key factors contributing to Nexus’ continued success in this difficult climate?
There is only one word for our key workers at the time of crisis: Heroes. They have gone above and beyond the call of duty to keep our transport systems operational at a time when we are locked down due to the ravages of coronavirus. A great team spirit and camaraderie exists in our workforce and at this most difficult time everyone has pulled together to keep us moving forward. It hasn’t been easy and tougher times may still lie ahead, but we’ve seen the very best of them here in North East England. They haven’t let anyone down and I we all just pray that we don’t lose any staff to Covid 19, mirroring some of the tragedies reported on the London transport system.

In light of current events, has the company reassessed its goals for 2020?
We still aim press ahead with the procurement of our Metro fleet and the next big step will be to choose the new livery. It’s too early to say if the current crisis will delay the delivery of our new trains, but as things stand we are still aiming for 2022 for the first ones to arrive for testing. We are in daily contact with Stadler about the impact of the crisis.

We still aim to open our new Learning Centre open this year, along with the temporary Metro depot. The first spades will go into the ground for the new main depot too. In terms of the Metro system itself, the impact of the lockdown means we will have revise are revenue targets. We will carry much less passengers this year. This is a new reality that all operators are having to face up to.

What are the company’s long-term targets for the years ahead?
In the next three years, our aim is to give the people of Tyne and Wear the new Metro fleet they have so badly wanted for so many years. Our current trains have served us well, but they pose an ever-increasing maintenance challenge and they need to be phased out.

In the longer term will continue to explore plans to expand the Metro system. Detailed studies are being carried out to assess the feasibility of eight potential new route corridors, so we are in a good position to select the best option and put a strong business case before the Government.

Alongside that we are developing proposals for further devolution of rail in northern England while ensuring partners’ aspirations for rail are embedded in Transport for the North’s (TfN) long-term rail strategy.

Services: Nexus is the Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive

Logistic integrity

Working with businesses of all sizes, from micro to blue chip, R McDowell Haulage & Distribution Ltd is a haulier with over 40 years’ experience in adding value through logistics

Established by Roger McDowell in 1976, R McDowell Haulage & Distribution Ltd began life with a single lorry. Fast forward to 2020 and the firm boasts over 100 state-of-the- art vehicles, as well as 150 staff members and comprehensive warehouse and training facilities. In summary, it’s been a meteoric rise for what is now known as one of the leading logistics companies in West Yorkshire.RM a

Growth at McDowell has been facilitated by the company’s comprehensive offering of warehousing handling and road transport solutions designed to make logistics and stock management operations more efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly. Supporting every major sector in the UK, including retail, manufacturing, electronics, food and drink, and home furnishing, the company’s core services range from contract logistics to storage, palletized freight distribution to full load haulage.

On the contract logistics side of the business, McDowell continues to save clients time and money by running their transport operations for them. Using its modern and versatile fleet, McDowell allows clients to focus on running their business, saving them time and money on vehicle outlay, driver hire, removing the headache of license undertaking and legal compliance issues.

Benefitting from over 100,000 square feet of ambient warehousing space, which can be racked or open for palletized goods, McDowell’s storage services allow its customers to optimize their stock management and order fulfillment capabilities without tying up capital in unsuitable or unnecessary stock. Features onsite include a variety of devanning/decanting, handling, fulfillment, and pick and pack services, as well as barcode application, scanning and dispatch management. Offering real-time stock information through a sophisticated Mandata warehouse management system, and requiring no minimum storage period, McDowell gives its clients complete control, meaning more efficient and more profitable stock handling.

Whether for B2B or B2C deliveries, palletized freight distribution has become an essential part of many companies’ customer retention strategy, and an increasing number of surveys show that poor delivery partners can not only cost businesses money, but also customers. As a result, in the early 2000s, McDowell became a member of The Pallet Network, the leading organization in its sector and winner of the FTA/Multimodal Pallet Network of the Year Award in 2019.

As part of The Pallet Network, McDowell offers its clients a complete logistics service from the delivery of a single pallet anywhere in the UK to a full load, while still minimizing a company’s cost and carbon footprint. Handling full, half and quarter pallet sizes, McDowell’s palletized freight customers profit from free online booking, tracking and management, as well as ePOD with 24/7 access. McDowell can also provide next day, timed or economy deliveries for any palletized goods and even offers specialist services for outsized or unusual palletized freight, which may require expert handling.

Through each area of its product line, McDowell combines modern, professional supply chain expertise with personalized service and aims to bring local values of reliability and customer care to its clients nationwide. The firm prides itself on innovative problem solving and caters for a wide array of unique solutions to bespoke requests each year.

BRC Global Standards and ISO 9001:2015 accredited, McDowell endeavors to stay at the head of the industry through investments of around £1 million each year in the latest infrastructure and equipment. After experiencing the impact of 2020’s Covid-19 pandemic, the company has recently received further funding from HSBC UK, which will be used to acquire eight new heavy goods vehicles. It is a positive sign for the future at the end of what has been a challenging year for businesses across the industry. Company Director Geoff Hirst explains more:

“Towards the beginning of the year, it was all about learning to diversify and adapt to daily challenges whilst ensuring the long-term perspective remained positive,” he says. “Quickly implementing Covid-19 PPE in order to keep staff working in a safe environment was vital for us to continue operating, but demand for our services was certainly impacted. We had to use the furlough job retention scheme to protect jobs whilst customer orders were reduced and so we worked with HSBC UK to secure support through the lockdown. However, we have a strong and varied client base that enabled us to keep a significant proportion of vehicles on the road. We diversified into the food supply chain since the need for RM bsupermarket deliveries increased and we also provided hospital beds to NHS Nightingale Hospitals throughout the UK.

“We’re optimistic about the future of the sector,” Geoff continues. “Our full team is now back at work and despite being in the midst of uncertain times, we are really pleased to have just secured funding from HSBC UK to purchase new vehicles and expand our articulated vehicle fleet. These new vehicles will enable us to improve our service in response to customer demand and at the same time improve our drivers working conditions, which is paramount to us.”

As Geoff suggests, McDowell values people as the most critical part of its business and continues to find ways to show its employees that there would be no business without them. The firm holds the same belief of its customers and the board of directors are proud of the way that McDowell has grown and maintained a high level of customer service throughout its journey so far. At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, McDowell shared this culture with the NHS, delivering 14 pallets of Fox’s biscuits to essential health workers, free of charge. A regular client of McDowell, Fox’s wanted to gift 65 cases of Rocky Bars and 88 cases of Party Rings to Leicester hospitals - a total of 26,000 individual treats.

“We were only too happy to make these deliveries. Biscuits may not be life-saving but they can do a huge amount for morale,” stated McDowell’s Commercial Manager Craig Thorpe at the time. “We routinely move between five and ten loads a day for Fox’s, from two of their sites in Wakefield and Ripley, Derbyshire. We are not sure how the biscuits will be distributed within the NHS, but they were certainly received with enthusiasm.”

As evidence of McDowell’s industry leading practices, the company provides a host of accredited courses tailored to meet client needs, ranging from novices to experienced operators. The only haulage industry-based HGV training organization in the West Yorkshire area, McDowell’s available programs include LGV, HGV, and forklift training, as well as Driver CPC. All instructors are experienced industry professionals with full RTITB qualifications.

Though McDowell’s achievements are often viewed on a large-scale, the company continues to thrive on a smaller, person-by-by person level as well. This notion can be viewed through employees like Alan Calkeld, who after joining the company as a teenage garage worker, celebrated 25 years with the firm in 2019. Now a qualified Class 1 HGV driver, Alan, and other long-tenured team members like him, are the lifeblood of McDowell and their commitment to the firm is a sign that McDowell is a business that cares.

Led by people like Alan working tirelessly on a day-to-day basis to live out McDowell’s values and deliver on its promises, the company is now in an ideal position to grow into the future. “We plan to secure ten vehicles annually and expand by five per cent year on year, with profits reinvested back into the company,” Geoff reveals. “There is also the possibility of investing and diversifying into property to enhance the warehousing side of the business. It’s a very exciting time to be part of McDowell.”

R McDowell Haulage & Distribution
Services: Haulage, stock management and logistics

Making waves

Serving nearly 20,000 vessels across the globe, OneOcean has become the largest digital solutions provider in the maritime sector

Founded in November 2019 as part of a merger between Chartco and Marine Press, OneOcean offers intelligent maritime software that provides oneocean adigital navigation and regulatory compliance solutions. Anchored by three regional offices in the UK, Montreal, and Singapore, the company has a presence in all large maritime markets. Using up-to-the-minute data, OneOcean solutions enable crews and shoreside teams to work more collaboratively, leading to better informed decision making, the early anticipation of problems, and a substantial reduction of risk “Before the merger, both Chartco and Marine Press had been established for over 25 years, initially providing physical products such as charts and publications before branching out into digital services,” Group CEO Martin Taylor says. “Quickly, both companies moved towards developing a growing suite of software solutions to help customers meet increasingly complex navigational compliance.

“Today, OneOcean has one of the industry’s largest product development teams and generates the majority of its revenue from digital solutions. Our core offering provides voyage solutions to the maritime industry focused around passage planning, compliance, safety, and environmental requirements. We target making navigational decisions more efficient and simplifying the related compliance. In short, we solve our customers’ problems.”

Smart collective
The industry’s leading provider of navigation and compliance services to commercial shipping, OneOcean has amassed a customer base of around 2600 maritime firms, with the average client using at least six products or services on each of their vessels. Offering the broadest range of services in the sector - not one of the company’s competitors possesses a comparably extensive suite of navigation planning and compliance - OneOcean has harnessed the power of technology to help develop its innovative range of problem solving applications.

“As part of the merger, we looked at the needs of our customers and how OneOcean could support their immediate requirements, improve their ability to achieve wider efficiencies, and increase collaboration between ship and shoreside teams,” Martin explains. “Traditionally, the information and business processes within the industry are quite siloed, but with digitisation and technological awareness growing in the sector, it became possible to envision a more co-operative approach through a common operating picture.

“In the past, customers have become familiar with specific products serving specific functions. We really focused on broadening our approach by studying overlapping problems that affect many operational departments but are all part of the same workflow. The result of this was the development of multiple software products that, when used together, address specific operational needs. The wider products work as a smart collective to create ‘solutions’. We can package them in a way that enables greater efficiency and optimisation for our clients.”

One of the company’s most popular products in recent times has been EnviroManager. An increase in the number of environmental regulations, heavier fines, and the risk of environmental harm have led many of the industry’s top companies to search for ways to ensure compliance.

“The EnviroManager product provides clear guidance on what can and cannot be carried out by a vessel, by type and location, in order to be compliant with MARPOL, national, regional and local regulations,” Martin reveals. “As well as the environment being a high-profile area for businesses, regulations and boundaries for baselines are constantly changing, which creates a big challenge for vessels trying to understand what regulations need to be adhered to.oneocean b

“At OneOcean, we have built a dedicated content team to actively monitor what changes are in force, or about to come into force, and keep the software up-to-date with the latest information and guidance, ensuring onboard and onshore crews have visibility of what can be undertaken. We provide feedback in a traffic light format - red for what cannot be undertaken, amber for items that can be undertaken but with restrictions (such as limitations on the amount or at what speed discharges can be made) and green for what is permissible. It was the first product to combine our new approach of combining quality content with smart decision-making software that can engage all stakeholders on a common platform. We are using a similar strategy for our new enhanced passage planning product, which we are really excited about.”

Customer focus
OneOcean’s enhanced PassageManager service has been developed in direct partnership with the firm’s customers, which include vessel owners, vessel managers, international bodies, regulators, classification societies, flag states, and ports. Martin believes that the company’s customer focus is one its great distinguishing traits.

“Products like EnviroManager and PassageManager are the result of collaboration with our customers,” he states. “It’s an approach that’s been working for us and we continue to invest in doing it more often.

“By creating our own unique dataset using aggregate regulatory data sources, we bring extra relevant context to our information. It means we can provide a wider and more precise level of knowledge, while our intelligent software makes using it easier and more effective.

“It’s all about finding ways to make our content more useful for our customers rather than just being used because it is required. The size of our business and our geographical positioning allow us to provide 24/7 support to all our clients and, going forward, we will be working hard to connect them across different sectors so that data, information, and decision making become linked.”

As an industry leader, OneOcean has played a key role in keeping those in the maritime sector safe and well-informed during the Covid-19 pandemic. Alongside the implementation of social distancing and home working policies, the company has ensured that its client base, and the industry at large, have had reliable access to vital information in a time of global upheaval.

“In terms of our customers, we made sure they could access digital publications and charts in place of paper alternatives – especially where stock limitations had come into force due to suppliers on lockdown,” Martin reports. “Going further than that though, we created a live Coronavirus update page, collating together the incidences, notices, and guidance across the maritime industry in one place. It is a free resource for the whole industry to use and has received over 4000 visits between mid-February, when we launched the page, and May.”

Eager to solidify its status across the globe, OneOcean continues to expand. At the beginning of April 2020, the company opened a new Tokyo office to help provide greater support to its increasing number of Japanese clients.

“When OneOcean was established, we created the sector’s largest presence in Japan,” Martin remarks. “We have chosen to invest in this large maritime market and see limitless potential for further work with our forward-thinking customers there. We want to continue our growth in new markets and engage with new voices on future products. Opening an office in Tokyo was a natural progression for us and we are lucky to have such a great team out there.”

Decision support tools
Next on the agenda for OneOcean is the release of a new electronic logbook reporting tool. Scheduled to be available from the summer of 2020, LogCentral is an industry leading recording solution for record keeping, monitoring, reporting, and compliance verification.

“Built with a clean, modern and easy to use interface,” Martin adds, “LogCentral will help manage electronic record books, including those required by MARPOL, such as oil records, garbage, ballast water, and ozone depleting substances. These reports will be available for shoreside teams to see and enable analysis of data which, up until now, has been less accessible. It all ties in with our mission to help our customers improve their operational efficiencies.”

As is illustrated by the company’s commitment to the latest technologies, OneOcean believes the industry’s future will be defined by digitisation oneocean cand what it can offer to the maritime sector. Martin suggests that the access to quantifiable and structured data that digitisation can provide will help decision making and drive business value through the ecosystem.

“The economics of ship operations haven’t really improved in the past ten years,” Martin claims. “The industry has squeezed everything it can out of the suppliers and now the next level of business value is overall 39efficiency between stakeholders and within an organisation. Technology is perfectly suited for this. Digitisation means a lot of things, but for us, it simply means looking past traditional departmental siloes and identifying workflows that need to be more fluid and collaborative in order to allow the experts to make better decisions.”

With a wealth of expertise in the maritime sector, OneOcean understands the challenges facing mariners today and Martin is confident that the company will continue to offer solutions well into the future.

“In five years’ time, I truly believe OneOcean will be the integrated platform that links all processes on ship and shore side, providing myriad decision support tools that the industry wants and needs,” he asserts. “OneOcean’s innovative services will be used within all workflows and will deliver a new level of vessel compliance and enhanced efficiency via digitised and simplified voyage management. We will remove the boundaries between ship and shore and, with the help of a wide breadth of stakeholders, begin to benefit from more efficient, environmentally conscious, and safer practices.”

Services: Digital solutions provider


A ferry bright future

As the shipping industry begins to make changes in compliance with the Government’s Maritime 2050 strategy, one of the biggest difficulties facing businesses is the challenge presented by sustainability. For an industry still heavily reliant on fossil fuels, the Government’s plans for zero emissions shipping in the UK by 2050 seem highly ambitious, but ferry operator Red Funnel is already playing its part.

“I think our commitment to an environmentally sustainable operation is clear,” says CEO Fran Collins, a sentiment supported by the vast amount of RF 178 bpublic recognition the operator has recently received. In 2019, Red Funnel won the Maritime 2050 Award, was awarded a Gold Star certificate by Visit Isle of Wight for its work promoting the use of sustainable transport, and was nominated in the Green Initiative Award category of the 2019 IW Chamber Business Awards.

Despite the plaudits, Fran, who was awarded the Merchant Navy Medal for Meritorious Service in 2019, says that Red Funnel’s work is about much more than winning prizes. “We’re very privileged to have won the awards, but our motivation is more than recognition; it’s about doing the right thing to support the Isle of Wight and the Solent, both now and into the future.”

After launching its Red Goes Green campaign at the end of 2018, Red Funnel has undertaken a number of measures to make the organisation more environmentally friendly, and continues to do so today. “Some of the changes are fairly small scale i n nature, such as ensuring we work to eliminate single-use plastics across our business,”

Fran explains, “but others have wider implications, such as our anti-idling campaign.” Clean air is a priority for Red Funnel, and the operator recently trialled the use of a bio-fuel equivalent in Red Falcon, a member of its fleet.

In order to comply with environmental targets, Red Funnel is currently looking into replacements for three of its vessels. Fran says sustainability is at the heart of this process. “As we start to consider replacing the vehicle ferries, ensuring that they are built in the most sustainable way and with the potential to operate on an emissions-free basis is a fundamental part of our research.”

Red Funnel has a long history of transporting passengers, cars and cargo between Southampton and the Isle of Wight, and the last three years have seen the operator introduce three new ships to its fleet. Hi-speed catamarans, Red Jets 6 and 7, joined in 2016 and 2018 respectively, and most recently, Red Funnel awarded a £10 million contract to Birkenhead based shipbuilder Cammell Laird, to build its new state-of-the-art, freight-only ferry, Red Kestrel. “The first of her type, she’s a 74m double-ended RoRo (roll on, roll off) with capacity for 12 trailers,” Fran explains. “This frees up enough space for around 100 cars on our vehicle ferries, which means we can offer better options and wider choices at peak times for both freight and car passengers.”

Of Red Funnel’s existing fleet of seven ferries, six have been built in the UK. The operator continues to support British shipbuilding and is also helping to keep maintenance jobs in the UK, having recently signed a three-year agreement with A&P Falmouth to service its vehicle ferries for routine maintenance.

Since the introduction of its new catamarans, Red Funnel has seen good growth in traffic levels and market share. The addition of Red Kestrel has RF 178 csparked similar steps up in private vehicle and freight market sectors. Over the last three years, Red Funnel’s capacity has increased from three million to 3.4 million, and punctuality has improved to 94 per cent. Fran suggests the operator is already reaping the rewards of the investment it has made in its fleet. “These new vessels have complemented and expanded our service well and we continue to see the benefits from our focus on delivering great customer service.”

Landside, Red Funnel completed an interim upgrade to its East Cowes site in 2018 and is now preparing to start construction of the main scheme, which will include a bigger and more suitable marshalling yard and better terminal facilities. “The scheme will greatly improve access to and from the port,” Fran says, “as well as minimising the effects of traffic on the town.”

It is clear from talking to Fran that, despite the ongoing changes and developments, customer satisfaction remains at the core of everything Red Funnel does. “Customer service is something that we take extremely seriously,” Fran states. “We pride ourselves on ensuring that we give our customers what they want.” Red Funnel’s latest customer satisfaction score of 8.6/10 suggests that the operator is doing just that, but Fran makes it clear that the company is not resting on its laurels. “Our customers told us that they comwanted better choice and wider retail offerings,” she explains. “As a result, we’ve recently announced a partnership agreement with Sainsbury’s, which will be rolled out across our locations in the spring of 2020.” Fran is quick to allay any fears customers might have about changes this may cause to Red Funnel’s current menu. “Don’t panic,” she says, “the Red Funnel big breakfast that our customers know and love will still be available!”

Looking ahead, Fran expects 2020 to be a very interesting year for Red Funnel. “We are into a period of delivery now,” she says. “We’ve set our big projects in motion and we have a roadmap of things to complete.” Alongside the new retail offerings and developments of landside infrastructure, the operator has added a number of vastly experienced industry professionals to its leadership team. This experience will, no doubt, prove invaluable as Red Funnel continues to lead the shipping industry’s march towards sustainability. Fran hopes that businesses can work on the issue collaboratively, and look for long-term solutions, rather than a quick fix. “It’s an exciting time in shipping,” she says, “but we have to ensure that the industry doesn’t see sustainability as a competitive decider, but as a responsibility for us as a whole.”

For Red Funnel, Fran believes the vision is clear. “We’ll continue to serve the Isle of Wight to the very best of our abilities and provide a level of excellence that our customers Funnelexpect.” One thing that won’t change in the coming years is the operator’s long-standing commitment to its home on the south coast. “We have a few challenges coming up,” Fran says, “but we’ll still be supporting the Solent in every way we can."

Red Funnel
Ferry operator serving the Isle of Wight since 1861
Recently introduced three new vessels to its fleet
Winner of Visit Isle of Wight’s Gold Star certificate for work towards sustainability

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