Ana Chávez
General Manager
CHM Maritime
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View from the Top

Anticipating Customer Needs Fosters Innovation

Wed, 01/20/2016 - 13:26

In order to serve the increasing demand of the Mexican market, Cashman Equipment, a Boston-based company specialized in leasing vessels and maritime services, created CHM Maritime. Cashman manages a global fleet with bases in Africa, South-East Asia, Australia, the Caspian Sea, and Kazakhstan, moving vessels according to the needs identified its affiliates, such as CHM Maritime. Their role is also to anticipate long-term demand, and inform us on the usage of tugboats and barges. Back in 2014, CHM Maritime introduced new vessels to Mexico, a decision based on the industry’s evolution. Ana Chávez, General Manager of CHM Maritime, says this was a timely move due to the competition the company will now face. However, she is not worried about more players in the market because, unlike its international competitors, CHM Maritime has deep knowledge of the Mexican market and knows how to operate a Mexican company, two intangible assets that take time and effort to develop, according to Chávez.

One of CHM Maritime’s main advantages is that its vessels are registered in Mexico, which enables the company to offer services at lower prices. In the midst of increasing competition, the company will continue working with familiar clients and partners, a strategy that has proven successful in other countries where CHM Maritime operates. “Some of the companies we will continue working with include names such as McDermott, CIPM, and Dragados Offshore, but we are also considering smaller companies that are venturing into larger projects,” says Chávez. “If, at any point during the development of these projects, they need the type of vessels we offer, we are confident they will turn to us. We are also looking for other areas outside of Round One where our vessels could be of use.”

It is worth mentioning that CHM Maritime was not exempt from the industry’s downturn. “A lot of our work across the globe is done with EPC contactors that work with the major oil companies. Any negative impact in the offshore oil industry is directly passed on to us. Today, in Mexico, our clients have several projects with PEMEX, which is suffering from the drop in oil prices, and this makes it difficult to conduct any strategic planning,” comments Chávez. She adds that the situation has impacted CHM Maritime in the past two years. “We were only able to complete 50% of the projects intended for 2015. In order to adapt to this new situation, we have reviewed our prices and offered more tailored options to our customers in order to help them obtain contracts with PEMEX.” Despite the industry turmoil, CHM Maritime is maintaining a positive outlook. At the moment, the company has eight tugboats in Mexico and four barges, with an extra one to be added next year. The company is currently working in structure transportation projects, mainly with McDermott and CIPM.

Adjusting its business model is one of the ways CHM Maritime will survive the industry’s financial crisis, but innovation is at the core of its success. “In our business, when there is a lack of cutting edge innovation, a company risks being left behind, so it is our goal to continue innovating in the maritime industry,” states Chávez. Cashman launched a mobile app aimed at helping clients gain more operational control.

The mobile app is linked to Cashman’s website, which holds all the documentation on the company’s vessels, be it barges, tugboats, or cranes. Chávez says this is particularly useful for barges, which are operated without any people and consequently do not hold any sort of documentation. The information is available to anyone who registers. “This is an excellent marketing tool for us, as we are able to gauge who has an interest in our fleet,” says Daniel Schwall, Senior Vice President of Cashman. “The information that we provide the industry is not just about our vessels, but also about other players in the global market as well. Engineers and naval architects around the world go to our website to get information that they can use to create generic models for their vessels.” In his view, the app eases the burden of accessing information for customers, allowing them quicker operational control. Although Chávez believes the Mexican market is ready for this app, some details still have to be adapted to this country. For instance, the majority of the content is in English, the most commonly used language in the maritime industry. Nonetheless, the app, which is only available for iPhones so far, contains a significant amount of information in Spanish. For Chávez, CHM Maritime has to be more innovative, commercially aggressive, and most importantly, it has to beat the competition when it comes to anticipating its clients’ expectations in order to overcome in a difficult yet promising environment.