This week, BBN spoke with Niki Walton, Managing Director of Vancouver-based AQUILA PQMS, a maritime start-up in the ship development and shipbuilding space.

Why do you do what you do and what do you like about the shipping industry?

“I have a passion for working with customers to understand their needs and find software solutions that improve their business workflows and data integrity.  I have worked in the shipping industry for 20 years supporting seafarers and companies in the optimization of their information systems and processes. What I love about the shipping industry is the people and the integral role we play in the global supply chain.”

Do you see a decline in a the number of newbuilds being ordered? Is this due to the Covid crisis or do you believe these changes, to a degree, were going to happen anyway?

“Yes, there has been a decline in the number of newbuilds. But in my opinion this is not due to the Covid crisis. According to a 2018 OECD Shipbuilding Market Developments report, newbuild orders have been in decline since 2013 with deliveries on order continuing to decline beyond 2021. What the Covid crisis has highlighted is that the industry needs greater adoption of asynchronous* communication and collaboration platforms to help ensure and improve the effectiveness of business processes in the face of restricted travel and face-to-face meetings.”
*For those of us less tech-savvy, asynchronous means controlling the timing of operations by the use of pulses sent when the previous operation is completed rather than at regular intervals.

Where do you see opportunities in our industry?

“As long as the global economy demands the movement of goods, new ships will always be needed. But as the world fleet ages and new technologies and regulations emerge, retrofits and conversions are here to stay.”

At BBN, we are all about opening up the industry and creating an environment of  transparency. We would love to know what your view is on transparency in the shipping market? And how we can all improve?

‘’Sharing of data is key to creating an environment of transparency. It is also key to how the industry will continually improve on its performance targets, whether those targets relate to environmental standards such as fuel consumption and management or to the health and safety of seafarers around the world.

According to Graham Westgarth, CEO of VGroup at the 2019 Global Marine Forum‘Currently, there is no standardisation across the industry regarding the classification of incidents and this creates barriers to accurately analysing accidents on an industry-wide scale. Shipping needs to establish an anonymous independent database that is capable of collecting data from all sectors. There is a real fear of sharing data in case it is used against us, or used by others to gain a competitive advantage, but as leaders, we need to rise above that.’

In your opinion, what does our industry need now more than ever?

“I think strong leadership and transparency are key to ensuring our industry lives up to our environmental, health and safety responsibilities. And, investment in all forms will be needed from the private and public sectors around innovation and technology.”

Do you find that companies in the industry are slow to move to a digital platform? In your opinion, Is the digital transition slowly beginning to take place or is it still far away?

“Yes, many companies and industries prefer the status quo when it comes to technology. It’s understandable, in that it can take significant investment in time, retraining of  people, and money. These are real barriers to overcome, but for companies that don’t take up the challenge to advance their information and system architectures they run the risk of losing out on real efficiencies and cost savings.”


AQUILA is a secure cloud-based communication and document management application that helps project teams focus and collaborate on their core duties related to the design, construction and quality of a ship.

You can reach out to Niki on LinkedIn.

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