For the past twenty years I’ve been involved in the biggest maritime marketing research projects ever carried-out. A lot of them have been in strange places. Most of them have been qualitative as well as quantitative, finding-out how and why as well as how many.

With Gilmour Research I’ve carried out and analysed the biggest onboard face-to-face interview programmes with seafarers ever conducted, which means I’ve heard directly from over 5,000 people working at sea. We talked to deckhands, officers and Masters, government agencies, distributors, manufacturers, ship supply companies, agents, naval personnel, anyone and everyone involved in working at sea.

True, I haven’t seen attack ships burning off the shoulder of Orion. On the other hand I have personally interviewed people in the US Coastguard HQ in Washington, where most people simply can’t get in the door. I’ve sunk a few beers with the crew of the Rainbow Warrior and asked questions on the bridge of a Japanese Coastguard cutter. I listened to what the US Navy wanted from their satellite communications gear at SURFPAC in San Diego and at SPAWAR as well, in the US  military’s global communications centre.

I’ve worked with Inmarsat developing new maritime satellite communications products and we won the contract for the UK Hydrographic Office’s customer satisfaction programme, the biggest research study ever carried out by the Admiralty. With a turnover of £50 million per annum and a 70% market share they wanted to make sure they stayed ahead of their competitors, particularly in the rapidly-changing electronic chart market.

I’ve worked with Chalmers University’s Lighthouse project to advise on the problem of false seafarer certification and the Maritime & Coastguard Agency assessing the impact of new maritime legislation, finding out whether or not it improved safety. That lead to on ongoing project with IHS Fairplay, finding new ways to compare maritime casualty information.

Inmarsat’s Crew Calling programme was the breakthrough. Back in 2001 the old white men in charge of maritime had the idea that crews on merchant ships didn’t want to talk to anyone. That’s why they’d joined, they said. They didn’t know anyone with a phone, they said. And anyway, even if they did, they couldn’t afford to call them. That was the view, anyway. We proved it was nonsense. We put interviewers on ships to ask the crew directly. We found crew were already calling home. On average they were spending $88 a month doing it. Just not with any of the onboard communications providers. Using the insights we pulled from this research we helped Inmarsat transform a Cinderella market yielding just $600,000 a year into the $12 million p.a. revenue stream that supported their IPO. It took five years and a lot of work, but not a bad return on their research investment.

And there are others as well, emerging maritime players who needed solid, dependable first-hand research that provided answers instead of more questions.

I still do this whenever anyone wants it done.

Keep coming back and I’ll tell you all about it.

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