VIKAND Partner Profile: ShipMoney
We once again turn the spotlight on one of the many important collaborators helping to make VIKAND a success. The united efforts we make with our partners benefit seafarers through proactive healthcare, innovative technologies, and a community of providers who foster a culture of care.
This month, we are in conversation with Stuart Ostrow, CEO of ShipMoney.
VIKAND—Please describe your company and industry reach.
Stuart—Our company name is Maritime Payment Solutions LLC, better known as ShipMoney. We’ve created an ecosystem which simplifies maritime payments as years of experience allows us to understand the unique financial circumstances of seafarers and the shipping industry. That’s why we created a customisable and easy to integrate maritime payments platform that reduces operational costs, improves working capital and mitigates risk.
VIKAND—How long has your company been in business and in the maritime industry?
Stuart—I realized that the way crew were paid on cruise ships was outdated. Traditionally crew were paid using a mixture of cash onboard with the rest of their wages being wired to their bank accounts. Huge amounts of cash would have to be delivered by armored trucks which was both inefficient and risky from a security point of view. I therefore came up with the idea of using pre-paid payroll cards and adapted them to the unique requirements of the maritime industry. The new ShipMoney proprietary payment platform created with the help of fintech experts meant that seafarers could for the first time receive their payments digitally and send money home to their families while still onboard. ShipMoney is now in its 11th year of trading and has expanded its services by offering mobile phone top-ups, a payment scheduler and soon to be launched next gen app. The company has also successfully moved into the commercial shipping sector with prominent ship managers such as V.Ships, Maersk and BSM amongst its clients.
VIKAND—Name a “highlight” or two of a contribution to the maritime industry of which you are proud.
Stuart—ShipMoney’s digital payments platform gives seafarers instant and transparent access to their wages and payroll advances – anywhere, anytime. ShipMoney is particularly proud that it has extended financial inclusion to seafarers from rural and remote areas, many of whom did not have bank accounts. Their ShipMoney card allows them to withdraw cash from ATMs, send remittances worldwide, shop online or in-store and transfer cash. Crew can request companion ShipMoney cards for their family and loved ones so they can transfer money to them even when they are working onboard.
VIKAND—What do you believe is the most significant advancement in the maritime industry in recent years and, more specifically, in your organisation’s area of expertise?
Stuart—The advance of digitalization and improvements in onboard connectivity has been the most significant advancement in shipping. The pandemic has accelerated this process and created permanent structural changes in the way we do business in maritime. Companies have had to think of new ways to navigate their way through the various restrictions introduced to stop the spread of COVID-19 by governments around the world.
The crew change crisis resulted in an estimated 400,000 crew, at the coronavirus peak, being stuck onboard unable to be repatriated with limited contact with their loved ones at home.
During that time, cash to master payments were impossible due to tighter restrictions at ports which prevented many physical deliveries to docked vessels for fear of cross contamination. There were also increases in port agent fees and restrictions on sending money to certain sanctioned areas such as Russia and Crimea. This has led to more companies using the ShipMoney digital payments system and services.
VIKAND—What is the biggest challenge the global maritime industry faces? Tell us about your strategy to overcome it.
Stuart—By far the biggest challenge facing maritime is the industry’s transition to a sustainable future. ShipMoney is looking into ways in which it can support this by partnering with organizations which are preventing ocean bound plastic and recycling waste to clean up our shores. One such group is the Global Partnership on Plastic Pollution and Marine Litter which is a multi-stake holder partnership that brings together all actors working on marine litter and plastic pollution. Another partnership which ShipMoney has developed is with Plastic Bank which has established a growing number of plastic collection branches within 50 kilometers of coastlines and waterways in countries where plastic pollution is particularly problematic.
VIKAND—Where are you headquartered and what is special about it (i.e., country, city)? Please also comment on satellite locations if you wish.
Stuart—ShipMoney is headquartered in Fort Lauderdale and has satellite branches in Brazil, Greece, India, Spain, the Philippines and the United Kingdom.
VIKAND—What does your company do to promote team and client well-being?
Stuart—ShipMoney has a very comprehensive onboarding process for new clients. In general, we understand that most people do not like change so our onboarding teams take great care to clearly communicate the benefits of digitization and ensure they are fully understood by both our direct clients (the ship operators) and our prepaid card users (the seafarers).
However, for many of our seafarers having a digital payments wallet solution is a fairly new concept so we guide them through the range of functionalities with either a face-to face vessel visits by ShipMoney personnel or with online training sessions.
ShipMoney deals with 97 different nationalities with our global team based across Asia, Europe and the Americas.
The good thing about ShipMoney is that we’ve learned from years of experience in maritime and have adapted to the requirements of crew members globally with a proprietary payments platform that can be tailored to integrate with systems across the industry.
We also support our clients after full deployment of a program with ongoing customer reviews, regular touch base calls and by using regular online surveys. Feedback is super important to us as it enables us to continually innovate and improve. The shipping industry depends upon its people and operational efficiencies, hence our regular touch points across organizations is a critical part of what we do.
Once onboarded, each of our corporate clients has a ShipMoney key account manager who is their primary contact for questions and queries. For crew we have our Vendor Manager Colby Rogers and his team who oversee customer services with our seafaring card users.