Serco NorthLink Ferries in European first with digital crew management

Wednesday 17th July 2019

Serco NorthLink Ferries has become the first European ferry operator to introduce a pioneering digital platform that helps maritime operators to manage their crews.

Ankaa Marine is a unique cloud-based portal and app for collecting, storing and processing seafarer information. It replaces outdated software applications or even paper-based systems and is the only product of its type available on the market.

The simple and easy to use interface connects directly with employees in real time and offers the company a simple overview and analytics of the crew pool.

Ankaa app for Northlink on tablet

NorthLink, which runs ferry services to the Northern Isles of Orkney and Shetland, has around 370 marine staff who, alongside the crewing department, will benefit directly from the innovation.

Ian Livingstone, Managing Director of Ankaa, said:

“The maritime community has always been challenged with effectively managing, sharing and ensuring validity of seafarer’s data. This has become more difficult with tightening data privacy legislation globally. The maritime world has been slow to adopt digital solutions and reluctant to embrace collaboration. We were very frustrated with the products available on the market being unable to offer a user-friendly but complete approach to industry-wide problems. Ankaa Marine was specifically designed by seafarers for seafarers to offer the sector a simple solution.”

Stuart Garrett, Serco’s Managing Director for NorthLink Ferries, added:

“We never stand still and are always looking for ways to improve our operations. Usually this is for the benefit of our customers. But on this occasion, we’re pleased to be doing something directly for our staff, ensuring that we keep up with technology and bring the benefits of digital services to our unique workplace. This is a proven solution to something that affects every maritime operator and we’re proud to be in at the start of a transformation in crew management.”

Ankaa Ltd is a new company set up by marine specialist employment firm Clyde Marine Recruitment, which has been managing seafarers for almost four decades. NorthLink Ferries’ two freight vessels, Helliar and Hildasay, were instrumental in the product development and field testing.

Features and benefits of Ankaa Marine

  • Live crew data (e.g. certificates and personal information which are paramount to being able to run the ship) can be viewed and updated by various stakeholders (Captain, HR, seafarer, operations, clients), from anywhere with web access.
  • Seafarer profiles can be updated via a web portal and crew mobile app. These include full personal data, banking details, travel documentation, certificate copies, next of kin details, sea service and current assignment location.
  • Crewing departments and seafarers will receive timely document renewal alerts and can immediately see vessels or individuals with potential certification deficiencies.
  • The instant messaging feature allows direct communication by the company and vessel masters to the crew to confirm changes to company policy, course details or weather delays affecting joining. This feature greatly assists with crew engagement and provides a direct link between the company and seafarer ensuring GDPR compliance.
  • A unique feature that Ankaa Marine incorporates is a bank account verification tool. When an IBAN number is securely entered to the system an advanced API ensures the account entered is a valid one. This ensures banking details are collected securely and also ensures far greater success in crew wage payments.
  • All crew data is hosted in the cloud and updated in real-time through a portal and mobile app. Data is encrypted and safely stored in the cloud using Amazon technology.

It is a modular system with an optional ‘add on’ for the recruitment of seafarers which is completely GDPR compliant. The system saves time in comparison to traditional CVs and heavy data attachments which require time to catalogue and identify.