What brought you to shipping industry and GTMaritime?
The sea dominated the first half of my career. I attended a maritime academy and then went on to sail as a deck officer mostly on product tankers, before switching to the offshore energy sector where I served on supply vessels and anchor handlers. For a few years, I ran a commercial fishing operation. Looking back, I’m appreciative of the insights these years brought into the way our industry works.
When it was time to come ashore, I carved out a role in the IT industry designing relational databases for Fortune 500 companies. In the 1990s, I decided to merge the shipping and software strands of my career and I’ve been involved in the marketing of IT-based solutions for the marine industry ever since.
Ever since shipping began to see the full potential of digitalisation, the need for secure data communication and to protect our industry from the cyber-criminals has become increasingly critical. This eventually pulled me into the gravitational field of GTMaritime as a company offering innovative solutions that tackle these problems head on.
What’s been the most challenging project you’ve working on so far?
Managing growth is always a challenge and our growth has been quite rapid as we have kept pace with demand, especially for our onboard cybersecurity solution. Our approach has been to build a global network of trusted Value Added Resellers and, in part, sustaining high customer satisfaction has had to do with the unswerving support of our partners.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your role?
I feel fortunate to have found a role supporting the shipping industry in tackling a serious problem with products I can be proud of. Day in, day out our services are protecting seafarers around the world from the distress caused by accidentally responding to a carefully-crafted spoof email. Of course, it’s unlikely that seafarers will thank GTMaritime: from the end-user perspective, the better our services get the more invisible they become.
What’s been the most important lesson you’ve learned in your job at GTMaritime?
Listen to your customers because they, more than anyone else, know the problems they’re facing. It’s important we remind ourselves that we do not have all the answers ourselves, so every conversation matters. Paying attention, asking lots of questions and understanding pain-points not only helps you identify the most appropriate solution and add a new client to the roster, but gives you a sense of how requirements are evolving across the industry, which is invaluable for future product development.
What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the maritime sector right now?
A big challenge – and opportunity – for fleet operators is finding ways of managing and using all the information a modern ship generates to best advantage. There is no end to the number of datacentric solutions coming into the shipping market, but that is not our area of expertise. Our role, as GTMaritime, is to make sure firstly that information is securely handled and does not end up in the wrong hands, and secondly that increased data flow is prioritised and optimised regardless of the communications pathway.
What aspect of the modern shipping industry most surprised you?
The enthusiasm for autonomous shipping has been something of a surprise. I find it hard to believe that automation can supplant years of accumulated experience and training of a competent human crew. During my time at sea, there were numerous situations where I had to dig deep to come up with workarounds to keep things upright. I wish them the best of luck building that into the seagoing version of Alexa!
What’s the most unusual place you’ve got to visit in your career – and what impression did it leave?
People over place. It’s the people you meet and spend time with that make a place special.
Where do you see GTMaritime heading in the next five years?
GTMaritime has set a course to continue developing and delivering innovative solutions to defend shipping against the growing threat the cyber criminals pose to its secure data requirements.
Who is your maritime hero?
Do you have a favourite ship or vessel type? What makes it special?
I have always had a great admiration for ships that change the paradigm in some way. As a cadet, I became fascinated by the SS United States. Its radical design helped it break numerous records for transatlantic crossings in both directions. In combination, the lightweight superstructure, super-powerful steam turbines and four giant propellers made that ship capable of a cruising speed of 35 knots. The Big U, as she was called, was truly memorable, even though we live in a world where slow-steaming has become the new normal.