The tankers business may not seem a natural home for a rocket scientist. Rather than figuring out the finer details of outer space, Christian Schultz is using his education and skills to collect and analyse data at Maersk Tankers, and use it to make better business decisions.
The tanker market is very volatile and it’s difficult to see a leading indicator. But if you put a lot of variables together then you get a better picture
Product tankers can be compared to taxis, taking on new assignments with new customers whenever they are available – unlike container ships, which are more like buses travelling on a fixed schedule. This makes predicting the market, and where to position the vessels, even more important.
Schultz outlines the scope of the work with data in a manner that makes a complicated, technical subject seem quite straightforward. He explains how, based on the data, the market analytics team made a recommendation in 2016 to move mid-range (MR) tankers out of the Asian region and into the Western hemisphere, where it was forecast they could secure better returns.
This proved to be right and was a contributing factor to the great MR result last year. Putting this together is a team effort, and the data is not infallible, but on average it’s better than a random guess or
trusting your gut feelings.
Look at the Data
Digitisation is a central tenet of Maersk Tankers’ Taking Lead strategy across three priorities: active position taking, cost leadership and third party services. It is enabling more accurate forecasting of which markets and cargoes yield the highest earnings, so that vessels can be positioned accordingly. Digitisation is also part of the efforts to reduce cost by creating higher efficiencies in processes and systems, which contributed to cost savings of USD 30m in 2016.
The digital focus has led to the hiring of staff from fields not traditionally linked to shipping, and who are experts in quantitative analysis and mathematical modelling, such as Schultz. They bring different skills and a new perspective to the company and industry, says Maersk Tankers’ CEO Christian M. Ingerslev.
Decisions in our industry have largely been based on sentiment, and it’s a volatile market
“Data can inform a better way of making those decisions, but only if it’s applied in the right way and combined with the experience, capabilities and customer insight we have built up. For this, we need people who come from technological backgrounds and who have the ability to really dig into data.”
In his PhD, Schultz focused on cosmology, developing computer simulations of structure formation– such as modelling how the initial universe first formed stars and galaxies – over the history of the universe. He joined Maersk Tankers in October 2015. Coming from a job in risk analysis at Danske Bank, he was inspired by the possibilities associated with working in a completely new area. He now works on coding data – vessels locations, oil futures, export and import numbers, rates, and the crude tankers market that can feed into products – and aggregating it in the right way, and sees a major change in the culture of the organisation as it increasingly relies on data.
It was a really interesting job ad. We are pioneers in this area. It’s always exciting to be at the forefront and there’s lots of freedom to decide what tools to use and which direction to go in.
“This is very high on the management agenda so I really enjoy coming to work and feeling that what I do is meaningful, that someone will be using it, and that it is of benefit to the business.”
Maersk Tankers strategy
Maersk Tankers operated 158 product tanker vessels at the end of 2016, of which 84 were owned, 22 chartered and 52 vessels were on commercial management. Together, these vessels comprise the largest product tanker fleet in the industry
Maersk Tankers continues to deliver on its strategy, which is based on digitisation across the following priorities: active position taking, cost leadership and third party services
Through active position taking, internal and external data are combined and used in commercial decision-making to more accurately forecast which markets and cargo yield the highest earnings, so that vessels can be positioned accordingly
Through cost leadership, Maersk Tankers is reducing its costs by creating higher efficiency levels in its systems and processes and improving its procurement leverage
By providing third party services, the company operates other owners’ vessels against a fee to achieve economy of scale, strong partnerships and income without having to invest