Lars Bomholt and Neil Donaldson make quite the team. The former is a Managing Director, the latter, a Strategy & Transformation Director. Both work for Garrets International, a leading maritime service partner established more than three decades ago.
Lars joined Garrets International a year-and-a-half ago, while Neil’s time at the company is approaching four years. Two relative newcomers, but between them, the pair have around 50 years of combined industry experience.
When Lars joined as Managing Director, the company was in the middle of an incredibly ambitious agenda change. With his appointment, Lars spearheaded a new wave of progress to fulfill the company’s ambitions.
After speaking with Lars about the new direction the company was taking, Neil, Garret International’s then Operations Director, made the bold decision to move into a new role.
“In short, my new job as Strategy & Transformation Director is to make change happen,” he explains. “Lars and I spoke shortly after he joined the company, and we discussed how I could support his management in a way that also brought us closer to achieving the strategic goals of the business.”
And what business is that exactly? Lars breaks it down for us: “The current iteration of the company was established through a merger in 2016, which brought together Garrets International and Sea Star Management – the number one and two within the sector. By joining forces, the company was catapulted even further ahead into that number one position.
“In essence, though, we are a maritime service provider looking at new ways to make life at sea better,” he goes on. “That is our DNA. We have done it for more than 30 years, and for us improving life at sea means establishing easy access to high quality vendors, fair prices, and doing business with an ease of mind.
“We always try to think outside the box and do differently. Being at sea is inextricably bound with an array of concerns surrounding health and responsibility, so we try to ensure that every crew has access to healthy, tasty, and nutritious meals. We do that by training and educating chefs; we turn cooks into heroes! And when we do that, we know we are succeeding.”
Robust supply chain
As one of the industry’s leading maritime service providers, Garrets International’s core service can be simplified to managing a vessel’s provisions and/or stores budget over a given time frame. Indeed, the owner or manager of a vessel or multiple within a fleet will have a certain, allocated budget for each crewmember per day – for food, non-food items, consumables, and so on.
That’s where Garrets International excels. It comes in and lifts the burden, strategically using its size and experience to solve problems and make that budget stretch as far as possible to make life at sea better. On top of that, the company provides additional services, including training for crewmembers, especially within the kitchen team; plus, digital services for vessels, covering data on expenditure and budget performance.
For Neil, one of the company’s key differentiators is its vast, global reach. “We cover more than 1000 ports regularly, and we bring many years of experience to the maritime industry, particularly in terms of balancing and addressing the nutritional needs of the crew,” he says. “But we don’t stop there. We are also experts when it comes to working with budgets and bringing on board safe and high-quality provisions for the crew; that is something we are respected for in the marketplace – and one of the key reasons why people want to join us.”
As a member of the Wrist Group, moreover, Garrets International has direct access to the world’s leading ship and offshore supplier’s colossal buying power, and therefore access to its robust supply chain. “That aspect of our company make-up is incredibly helpful,” admits Neil. “We make sure our vendors, including those we rely on to deliver food to our vessels, are all independently audited. As a result, when people come to us, they are confident that they are buying into a proven and safe experience when it comes to supply chain.”
In our ever-increasingly digital world, companies are being required to adapt or fall by the analogue wayside. Garrets International knows this, and it’s set on doing something about it. “Our digital agenda is in a state of transformation,” explains Neil. “We have put in place much improved reporting for customers, but I would say that our flagship change is our new digital end-to-end ordering and inventory management system.”
The company is calling it Gateway, and it was launched across a small number of pilot vessels in May 2022. Now, Garrets International has brought the software to nearly 500 vessels, and by the end of quarter three, 2023, the market leader expects to have Gateway installed across its entire fleet.
“We are also excited to announce the launch of a major new feature on the platform surrounding the stock process,” adds Neil. “Frankly, we know the stock take is the absolute bane of every seafarer’s life! It’s a horrible task, and therefore we have taken it upon us to make it as easy and accessible as possible. What does that mean? We are digitizing the whole stocktaking process and making it available on mobile and tablet – this means it will be quicker, easier, and more accurate for taking stock numbers.” This will allow the seafarers to focus on other and more important duties related to operating the vessels and nursing the crew.
Evidently, Garrets International is proudly sailing towards modernization and Industry 4.0, but the company is also looking to expand its overall service output, particularly when it comes to training. Indeed, the maritime provider is currently investing heavily across its training propositions and capabilities, with new funds also being ploughed into crew welfare.
In today’s world, companies are readily realizing that mental health does in fact fall under the wider banner of health, safety, and wellbeing. To that end, Garrets International is keen to explore how it can better life at sea by supporting the mental health and physical wellbeing of seafarers on board its vessels.
We look forward to finding out about these ambitions in the not-so-distant future, and how Garrets International is continuing to make lives at sea better – one seafarer at a time.