Setting a strategic course for the future

Inchcape Shipping Services (ISS) has a long history, stretching back to 1847 when Scots, William Mackinnon and Robert Mackenzie, soon joined by James Mackay, established a ship agency in Calcutta (today’s Kolkata). The company’s success saw it grow tremendously over the next 150 years, spreading its presence into numerous industries across the globe before ISS became a separate entity focusing on maritime and shipping-related services.

In 1999, in a move to focus on its burgeoning motor trade, the Inchcape Group divested ISS which was purchased by Electra Investment Trust Plc, a British investment group. Electra fostered the strategic goals of ISS providing finance for acquisitions and technology advances, which enabled ISS to further develop its role as the world’s leading ship agency. In January 2006 Electra sold ISS to Istithmar PJSC, a major investment house based in the United Arab Emirates which has followed the same path of fostering the group’s strategic goals.

Today, through its primary business stream Marine Services, ISS offers a comprehensive service portfolio to clients throughout the world. It has 255 offices located in 63 countries, delivering support and assistance to more than 2500 shipowners and charterers every day of the year. Understandably ISS is proud of its extensive customer base, counting many of the key players in the shipping market as regular customers. Central to its work is ship agency, rendering all the necessary services a vessel requires to ensure a quick and cost efficient turnaround in port. But it also has other business activities. Cargo Services provides a broad range of services to cargo owners, traders, mining companies and oil majors as well as the manufacturers and receivers of commodities, manufactured and fabricated goods at both point of origin and point of use.

Government Services is another fast growing business stream. ISS is the first choice strategic partner to various militaries, government, non-government, international organisations and mining and energy exploration principals operating in the port services, cargo services, logistics support, base operations support. ERP Services provides solutions to all parties involved in the supply chain from floating assets to cargo interests. Services include data management, financial and asset management, procurement, planned maintenance and communications support. These software solutions manage individual workflow processes or span the entire supply chain for both floating assets and cargo interests.

“Within these four business streams sit many products,” elaborates Michael van Hemert, senior vice president for Europe. “For example, within Maritime Services sits our Vessel Supply Chain outsourcing products such as our Integrated Crew Logistics Service (ICLS). Here we take care of transferring the crewmember from the minute he leaves home until he is safely on board his ship and conversely when he is repatriated at the end of his tour. This includes negotiating the best one-way and refundable airfares, meeting medical and visa requirements, and making sure he arrives at the ship on time – important when delaying the ship might cost $50,000 to $100,000 a day. ICLS is simply an outsourcing product designed to streamline and improve the crew transfer process.”

This type of ongoing development has been the lifeblood to ISS’ success; the EU Import Control System (ICS), an answer to new Advance Cargo Declaration regulations, is another example. Having gained extensive experience with the Global Advanced Manifest System (GAMS) in the US, ISS has applied this knowledge to its European operations and set up a dedicated 24 hour, 365 days a year department that will complete the necessary bureaucracy allowing a vessel into port under the new regime. This new service is already clearly meeting a market need.

Across all its operations, ISS continues to lead in global ISO 9001-2008 certification throughout its network of offices, with resources dedicated solely to QA & HSSE. Such unity throughout the company is typical, and ISS is looking to develop it further. “We will globalise our service range,” Michael explains. “With Cargo Services, for example, the challenge is to transfer the expertise, skills, methods and contacts built up over years in one or two regions to other parts of the world where we have not been strong in that particular sector. Our aim is to see strong development across all our business streams. But this isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. It needs careful planning and judgement.”

Unsurprisingly, a global company like ISS has been affected by global events of recent months, with earthquakes and floods around the Pacific and social uprisings throughout North Africa and the Middle East often directly impacting the company’s clients. Not willing to sit back and observe, ISS has been involved with gathering and sharing accurate information regarding the extent of damage to berths and terminals in Japan, for example, or the flow of Suez Canal transits during the Egyptian revolution. Reuters and Bloomberg as well as the maritime press have come to rely on the timely information ISS has disseminated, often in very difficult circumstances.

The future for the company, though, will continue using innovation as a driver for growth. Michael concludes: “We have a robust strategy currently running forward to 2015 – a road map that will enable us to achieve our ambitious goals and objectives whilst staying true to our core values. There are still many opportunities to build upon our strong customer service record and work with customers to expand our service portfolio.”

World-leading ship agency and maritime services firm
Strong global presence
Ongoing evolution of products