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“Fu*k!” the Captain yelled as he ripped the monitor from its Velcro taped base and flung it against the bulkhead.

I stared at him. Speechless.

“Fu*k! Fu*k! he repeated, at which point he saw me.

“Should I come back in a bit?” I asked softly.

“No. Stay. These reports have to be filled in by today and I am never working with this damn program again.” He handed a sheaf of papers over to me. “Let me know when they are done.”

Speechless I took the reports from him. 

As I stepped out of his office, I risked a glance at the hapless monitor. Its screen was shattered.

“Try not to break anything", he called out just as I walked away.

I was done in an hour.

It should have taken me five minutes.

For some background… The year was 2016 and our company had just installed a new software on all vessels. In anticipation of how difficult it would be to get the crew acclimatized; they had a Trainer spend two weeks on board conduct classes every day with all the Officers.

A good part of the training went into covering the shortfalls of the program and how to work around it.

It didn’t’t help that the installed version of WINDOWS on our computer was from before the dot com bubble burst. So long back that millennials who were born then had since come into adulthood, a few of them possibly even fathered their own children.

The computers were bad… possibly evil. And the software would have stretched the patience of even the staunchest Buddhist monk.

Which brings me back to my frustrated Captain who now sits in an insane asylum and is not allowed any electronic devices.

At least that’s what I imagined.

I contacted him yesterday as I was commissioned to write this article and asked him how he felt about the software, given the passage of three years.

I hate it, he said. Vehemently.

But you have to use it right? You don’t have a choice, do you?

I do, he responded. I always have somebody else do it for me.

I was impressed despite myself. The software incorporated the Shipboard forms, Safety Management Systems, Planned Maintenance, Procurement and a dozen other modules. This Captain was no slouch.  It must have been quite a challenge to avoid working with any of them and still effectively run a ship.

In the intervening three years we have received a weekly email with a booklet of tips – the Tiplet. There are now approximately 120 Tiplets for a grand total of 500 pages.

The book on Rocket Science by Travis Taylor is only 324 pages!

The antiquated Software and Hardware on board is a common grouse of Seafarers. This stark discrepancy is further enhanced with the silky smoothness of the standard apps that is found on any off-brand, budget smartphone. It feels like clambering on to a bullock cart on a mud path after getting off a Telsa on ludicrous mode.

Are computers that expensive that they can’t be upgraded more routinely? Is it that expensive to design an effective software that is user friendly and intuitive?

The problem is twofold.

One, shipping companies have for years underinvested in Technology, lagging behind other major industries in this regard. The result has been a constant struggle to maintain single digit growth while other industries (some of them as mature as the shipping industry itself) have doubled or even tripled their revenues.

Two, software’s have not been designed with the target audience in mind. Every app and software out there has been specifically designed (some of them by pimply teenagers) with the target audience in mind. The software that the shipping industry uses however has negligible input from Seafarers. Add-ons and special features are usually bulky and end up slowing down the program considerably.

The end result for the Shipping companies...  a loss of revenue in terms of lost man-hours and disgruntled employees.

And for the Seafarers… SHATTERED MONITORS.

About Nautix Technologies

Nautix Technologies is a modern maritime software company that provides next-generation SaaS products to ship owners and technical managers. Contact us to find out more.