Anker Seacrew Software recreates its Uniface software for the web without disrupting a tried-and-tested business solution.

Anker Seacrew Software customer story
Crew management software crew planning vessel management seacrew
Anker Seacrew Software is a solution for the international maritime industry, offered by Anker Crew Insurance, based in Groningen in the Netherlands. Seacrew has a leading position in knowledge and expertise with crew management in the shipping industry. Seacrew helps maritime organizations with their day to day business regarding crew, planning and payroll issues.
Challenge
Make an extensive crew management solution with 25,000 forms available as a web application while conserving the logic that customers trust.
Result
Using Uniface’s latest features plus standard JavaScript libraries, a small team of just three developers has been able to rapidly migrate core functionality to the web – while still doing their day jobs.

The Seacrew team first developed its Uniface software for crewing, planning and payroll in the late 1990s. Initially written for a specific maritime customer, it was subsequently marketed as a package, and is now used by around 45 customers worldwide, many of whom rely heavily on it to support their day-to-day operations.

A single customer may have 30-40 vessels worldwide, each with its own crew managed by Seacrew, so there could be several thousand employees managed by a single installation. Some customers outsource part of their operations and ask the supplier to use Seacrew too, for example, there might be a crewing agent in the Philippines using the customer’s own system remotely to manage recruitment. The Uniface system contains the security to ensure that everyone sees only the data to which they need access.

The solution has all the functionality of a normal HR system but also includes specialized functionality needed by maritime companies, such as the complex processes required to manage and document a crew change: for example, making sure that everyone has the right training and licenses before boarding. It interfaces with a range of third-party solutions, often via web services. This is a sophisticated system with around 2,500 Uniface forms in general use.

As well as using it in their shore-based offices, some customers use the software on board of their vessels. This adds an extra level of complexity, especially as an internet connection may not always be available so data has to be synchronized opportunistically.

"Fortunately, the software is very stable. Uniface never crashes, so the system won’t fall over when a customer is trying to get a new crew on board. Another main advantage is Uniface’s speed of development. It’s much faster than other technologies that members of our team have worked with. In addition, we take advantage of Uniface’s ability to interface easily with other systems, for example via web services. That’s important when one of our customers is using a third-party system on board their ships or wants to interface with a travel agent to book and receive flight tickets for example."

Mr Tepper, Software Developer, Anker Seacrew Software

Anker Seacrew Software in numbers.

Shutterstock 172537049

45 customers

are satisfied with the online products from Seacrew

30+ ships

Seacrew customers operating on a daily basis

1000 employees

of the Seacrew customers are depending on the Uniface software

2.500 forms

are listed in the application

3 Uniface developers

support at development

678 day up-time

An easy ride from staging to production


Benefits of developing a web version.

Around 2018, the team decided it was time to develop a web-based version of the solution. Existing companies were asking for it and the company also felt that the convenience of the web would attract new customers.

All our customers were asking for a web-based version, so we knew we had to do it – and there were important advantages for us in terms of reaching new customers and reducing our implementation and maintenance burden.

Mr Tepper, Software Developer, Anker Seacrew Software

There would also be business advantages for the Anker Seacrew Software team and its customers.

  • The web version avoids the need for staff to travel to sites to install or update the client/server software. With just 2-3 experienced Uniface developers looking after all aspects of the product, the resultant labor and time saving is significant.
  • The web version is easier to deploy: distributed over the internet and then instantly updated as required.
  • Instead of customizing the software, customers can take advantage of the new version’s configurability. This approach slashes maintenance overheads while ensuring that users can still enjoy a tailored solution.
  • Standardization plus the move to the web makes it possible for Anker Seacrew Softwareto host a single version of the solution, which each customer can run against its own database, reducing effort for both the Anker Seacrew Software team and its customers.
  • The web version is accessible by employees on the move: a crew member moving to their next assignment would be able to check documents by logging on at the airport or port via a mobile device. A mobile-specific version is not required for this, though one may be developed in future.