How data-driven insights are transforming cruise crew changes

Realising data-driven opportunities for crew changes can reduce expense and increase welfare

How data-driven insights are transforming cruise crew changes
A data-driven approach to crew change operations can reduce costs and streamline processes, says Nikos Gazelidis

By Nikos Gazelidis |

Regardless of market conditions, cruise lines and their service suppliers are always under pressure to reduce operating expense.  

Optimising the cost of crew changes is no exception. Historical and market data can deliver significant savings by, for example, helping to choose the most cost-effective airports and ports to be used, though surprisingly this approach is still widely under-utilised. 

Furthermore, the ability to identify current and historical trends and use them to work more strategically can provide tangible value for crew managers. Potential issues can be uncovered earlier and more quickly, and effective corrective action based on facts and knowledge can be taken. Essentially, applying data to crew changes and crew travel can have a positive impact operationally and on the bottom line, though sometimes it might take an external specialist to ensure all bases are covered. 

Intelligent port selection and data driven insights 

As an example of the potential value a data-centric approach can hold, consider that one global cruise hotel management operator saved around half a million euros over a four-month period by opting for different crew change locations. It decided upon these locations after carrying out an analysis of current and historical trends that encompassed factors such as air seat capacity and availability, seasonal influences, and local port taxes. The savings were then achieved even though the original crew change locations had already been planned, and in most cases, already booked and ticketed.  

The company focused on reducing travel costs for the five top crew nationalities for six managed vessels in its fleet. These five crew nationalities encompass approximately 70 per cent of the total crew involved. The company identified alternative crew change locations for 15 per cent of the crew changes that had already been booked for September-December 2023, using insights and support provided by ATPI Marine Travel obtained from the more than three quarters of a million seafarer transactions they managed in 2022. 

Taking a consultancy role, the ATPI Marine Travel team consolidated data from multiple sources to produce bespoke reports on behalf of the customer, who accepted the recommendations. Rescheduling was quickly finalised for those whose itineraries were affected to ensure the wellbeing of crew from deck to door was not compromised.  

Crew wellbeing 

Analytical solutions can provide transparency on the total cost of operation, including demonstrating the impact of factors such as booking lead times. It’s not all about money, however; managers need support to ensure they maintain a high standard of crew welfare. During the pandemic, the shipping industry rallied to bring the plight of stranded seafarers into the spotlight of regulators and the public. The industry’s focus on environmental, social, and corporate governance has not diminished from that time, and crew managers that can benchmark their own and their peer’s travel patterns and booking trends are able to ensure competitive service levels.  

Improved wellbeing is delivered when managers are provided with a choice of routes for their seafarers, or the ability to unlock access to fast-track security checks and airport lounges. Two-way communication ensures that they can report their safe arrival or raise security concerns while travelling. These services can be an important factor in keeping crew safe and job retention rates high. 

In real-time, managers also need to keep stakeholders informed when snags occur. As bottlenecks affect the master, port agent, managers and crew, proactive communication enables rapid response to unforeseen events and minimises inconvenience to everyone involved. Alternative travel plans can be made promptly and seamless communication maintained, which is especially vital after hours as the crew management team and the travel agent may need approvals to action alternate plans. Optimising communication via notifications can help to streamline the process. 

The carbon cost  

Logistics providers are increasingly considering carbon emissions to be a crucial part of their business model too, with crew travel falling within a shipping company’s Scope 3 emissions. Crewing companies that can offer end-to-end accurate carbon dioxide emissions calculation data as well as compensation opportunities from trusted sources will reap the rewards. Data is key to identifying the greenest crew change value chains globally and to monitoring opportunities as they become available.  

Shipping and cruise carbon footprints are targeted to reduce significantly over the next few decades, and cost-effective strategies are needed to benchmark progress and communicate success. Being accountable even at the level of crew travel means being able to provide detailed pre- and post-trip carbon measurement – greater transparency will be a powerful tool for maintaining a competitive edge over competitors. 

ATPI Halo (the company's client-facing proposition for sustainable travel) enables managers to identify emerging trends and turn them into actionable plans for reducing emissions, optimising crewing costs and maintaining competitive service levels. They are the key to fuelling growth and innovation, while maintaining complete control of the logistics cycle. Furthermore, the ability to compensate for carbon emissions as part of the crew change process is another way for crew managers to reduce the environmental footprint of their crew changes. 

Crew change logistics 

As the marine crew travel landscape changes, there is help out there for ship owners, operators and crew managers looking to deliver their duty of care and seek out lower costs at the same time. There is no silver bullet with such a diverse set of needs, but ATPI Marine Travel has recognised that demand from its customers has shifted significantly. 

Whereas the cost of the air ticket was once the deciding factor in 99 per cent of decision making when booking cruise crew travel, today, a more data-centric, supportive service delivered both digitally and by experts at the end of a phone or online chat is the only way to optimise crew travel. This hybrid approach forms the foundation of a new era in the sector, where crew travel shifts to become crew change logistics. It’s an approach that considers the big picture, while delivering services that unlock operational and costs benefits at the granular level. 

In the case of ATPI Marine Travel, 2024 is set to become a landmark year. It plans to release unified solutions that harmonise the fragmented workstreams of crew change logistics and support both employers and employees throughout the value chain. Within this will be new ways to address different workflows for diverse stakeholders. However, they will all have one thread in common, which is that the data and the insights it engenders are the most effective tools to meet the changing needs of crew travel when it comes to cost, crew welfare and the environment. 

Nikos Gazelidis is chief commercial officer at ATPI Marine Travel 

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