Innovate your marina!

Have you noticed how seamlessly smartphones have changed our lives? Or take a step back – do you remember your first mobile phone? Now, can you imagine what will come next? The fact that the world is changing faster than we can keep up to is actually quite intriguing. Innovation lies not only in the technology, but the technology acts as an enabler for innovation around us. The Maritime Industry, which is still considered quite conservative, has made a visible shift during the last years. Self-driving ships are just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s often been said that a large part of the marinas sector seems to be resting on its laurels. But are they really? Our team has been interviewing marinas for the last 2 years and have seen the rising interest for innovation. So, the assumption that marinas are satisfied with their achievements and make an effort to strive to modernize, could be misleading. Attitude is usually tied with the mindset - the season is always too short, the weather could be better for sure and it´s much easier to make money in every other field than operating a marina.

Thanks to the interviews we did, we have collected quite some qualitative input for our service development. We’ve seen marinas, that still operate on pen and paper, but more often we saw the use of software to ease management and the use of different web platforms to increase visibility. What is clear is that there is no common practice. When you can afford a standalone marina management system and pay for the integrations you may be just fine for a while, but when trying to optimize like most of the small marinas do - the options are quite limited. A mix of invoicing software, Excel sheets used for occupancy overview, listings in different booking apps, manual reporting and the accounting mess afterwards have put some of the marinas on hold, making them feel that technology only causes more trouble. Well, our team in Marina Ahoy has a proof of concept on how we can make the difference.

When we started off with our first customer - a thin and effective state owned harbour operator -  we saw plenty of room for improvement.

We believe that the next generation marina management will be done in collaboration with marina customers within a wide network of cooperating marinas. Everything will go mobile; self-service for sure, positioning based solutions instead of fragile IoT on site, In app access instead of plastic cards. Respectable harbourmasters will be assisted with the help of intuitive technology instead of cheap seasonal labour. Harbourmasters will already know who is coming far in advance and information with regards to problematic vessels is shared amongst the network. All you need is the internet connection and your existing gear.

In 2015, when we started off with our first customer Saarte Liinid (slmarinas.ee) - a thin and effective state owned harbour operator like the Estonian state itself, we saw plenty of room for improvement.

They’d already implemented Google Spreadsheets to work with multiple people on the same page. Manually, they made every entry, marked every paid invoice, spent days for reporting and more days for doublechecking. Despite Spreadsheets, they weren´t paper free. They still collected card payment checks and clamped them with print-out invoices to ease doublechecking. Customer service workflows were traditional which turned out problematic when visitors would arrive after working hours and left before than the harbourmaster would arrive the next day. More than once it happened that sailors were jotting down smiley faces instead of providing proper data in the check-in documents and bigger boats appeared smaller on paper so that harbour charges would be less. This list goes on and on.

First of all, the rule of thumb – to improve your business, cut costs and earn more.

The first thing we set up was a digital harbour journal for check-in procedures, backed up with a self-service app for sailors. Following the rule that all information should be entered only once, already made that we had won more time which could be spent on better customer service. The next step we took was reinventing the invoicing system from the perspective of the marinas. Predefined pricelists that we had to develop for in app payments now also served for manual invoicing. Autofill for extra items, clear payment details in the harbour dashboard and one click export files released extra time not only for the customer but also for accounting and management. It became even easier with an integrated mobile card terminal.

And I know this may sound cliché, but we saw the possibility to make the marinas more sailor friendly. We gave seasonal members the possibility to check out through their mobiles; in addition, this one click procedure meant an automatic entry in the harbour journal. We did the same for the guests check-in procedure – pay mobile and that’s it. That meant more time to chat with the friendly harbour master instead of bureaucracy on site. God is in the details. We have probably spent more time redesigning old systems than building new ones. It’s our challenge to keep an eye on the big picture, reuse the data again and again and skip some more unnecessary steps.

Want to collaborate? Get in touch. We need your input! Any thoughts or questions about the above? Please let us know by leaving a comment in the comment box below.

 

Hannes Koppel
CEO
Marina Ahoy Ltd.
hannes@marinaahoy.com
+372 526 5263

  • More information: www.marinaahoy.com

  • More informatsion: www.marinaahoy.com

  • Thanks for an interesting article .  I'd be interested to speak with you about how the concepts you are developing might impact upon how marinas can become more sustainable in the future, and also how they could attract more members. We all know that marina occupancy in the Netherlands is at a low level, and still falling due to an aging boating community, which is not being replaced by younger boaters.  

    I happen think that improving sustainability will be much easier with younger people involved, so my two questions have a common theme.

    Maybe we can schedule a meeting at METS if you're going to be there? I have some time available on Thursday 16th if that might fit with your schedule. You can e.mail me at: YachtMedia.buz@gmail.com

    Best wishes, Peter Franklin.