Talking with Pieter van Urk, owner of MaraSoft

Say Urk, and you say fisheries! And there are in fact a lot of fishers in Pieter van Urk's family. In practice, Pieter saw all sorts of possibilities for making the maintenance of fishing boats more efficient and one thing led to another:

'It was 23 years ago that we came up with the idea of automating the maintenance administration for fishers. After my career at sea, I was working in maritime education and engineering and more in that direction but I saw the possibilities. Everything used to be done on paper or things didn't get properly kept up to date. Our software package Marad developed from our first activities. Marad stands for Maritime Administration. After we set up our family business in 1999, we started slowly. We gradually grew bigger in the fisheries sector and at a certain point, got a client from merchant shipping, a shipping company in Urk. And from then on, everything suddenly went really fast. Within about eight years, clients such as Boskalis and Rijkswaterstaat (Dutch waterways and highways agency) came to us and we also grew internationally.

Our software is used for managing administrative processes on board ships and in shipping company offices, for example. Nowadays, we outsource part of our development work to Romania, where a team of 14 FTE works for us. We've continued to develop the software, from desktop applications to web applications and mobile options. We now serve around 3,500 ships and do business in more than 60 countries. The main thing is to have the right product with the right people, the right effort and at the right moment.'

And now everything is about data?

'The connection that we're now developing with the 2BA platform and the OMDS is in part the result of demand from our clients. That's why we embarked on the collaboration with 2BA, who facilitate the OMDS. Traditionally, we have a module at Marad with a database for a shipping company or a ship that contains all the components and articles it needs. There is not one shipping company or one user of our system for whom the core business is building a database full of articles and subsequently having to maintain it too. This is a huge problem. We have now developed a new order module for 2BA and connected it with Marad.

Screenshot of the Marad software

We build our package so that everything is streamlined, including the features and what is known as 'mandatory fields' etc. However, we can't personally determine for the client exactly which article file they need. That depends on the type of ship. There are countless parameters. Our clients referred us to 2BA's large uniform database and suggested that "it would be great if Marad could also look in that huge 2BA database".'

As Marasoft, you are engaged in talks with Klaas Koetje of 2BA?

'Certainly. To find out what that database entails, how it works and how it's maintained. We considered a system in which we would use two APIs - those of Marad and of 2BA - so that we could see into 2BA's uniform database and from there, be able to enter things in Marad.

The first concept is ready. We are now testing it so that we can gather feedback. It's now possible that a Marad user can ask for access to 2BA with user name and password on the basis of a subscription. You enter the settings just once in Marad and from then on, you are able to easily gain insight into things you had to type in manually up till now. We are still fine-tuning the way of presenting all the information. The real advantage is not so much for Marad as for the users of this software. I think an awful lot is possible. Naturally, we want our clients to choose the best option - ours.'

As far as the One Time Maritime Standard is concerned, what's the major win-win?

'We have only one focus and that is our client. We offer Marad on the basis of SaaS. The software is not sold as a one-time package but offered for use, service and updates for an annual fee. We want to make life easier for our clients so that's why we offer this extra and extensive feature. Our clients' satisfaction increases when we offer them the possibility of viewing the 2BA database through our software. That lets us safeguard both our own product and our own market.'

Are you happy with the results up till now?

'Absolutely! In terms of technique, all sorts of things are going on in the background, particularly if I look at the current functionality of the web application in the ordering module. At present, you see a form as it were, on which you indicate what it is you want to order. This will be replaced with a 2BA icon. When you click on it, instead of having to type anything, all you'll have to do is choose what you want. It just couldn't be easier. We're not quite there yet but we're working hard to streamline everything even more. And when I look at that now, I'm very happy with it.'

Will the connection with the 2BA database be a paid option?

'Our membership with 2BA does involve expenses for us and naturally, we've also invested quite a lot of development hours in it. There will be a fee per ship charged in the purchasing module. That is in line with what the software partners for the installation world do in their ERP software.'

Do you have any idea when MaraSoft will be able to take the next step towards getting everything operational?

'Our developers are working hard on the new purchasing module and we're making every effort to get everything shipshape. We will be releasing early in 2023. That doesn't change the fact that our client also has to reach their own agreement with 2BA so that they will have access to the database in future. As far as we're concerned, we're pretty much ready for it. We're expecting some feedback from the users about the way all the data, linked products journals, visuals etc. are presented. But in the end, it will be easy to fill in a request for products for which the information is always up to date.'