Christian Plum is getting used to life working as part of a large industry team again. With a career which includes a near seven-year stint at Maersk in a variety of analytical and optimisation roles, Plum is now back in the big corporate league after BunkerMetric, the Denmark-headquartered bunker procurement optimisation business he set up around five years ago, was acquired earlier this month by the Alfa Laval subsidiary StormGeo. For Plum, the move will ‘open a lot of new doors’ for the former start-up.
After completion of the deal, which is expected in Q3, BunkerMetric’s Bunker Planner will be integrated with StormGeo’s s-Suite product portfolio and will be rebranded as s-Bunker. Plum will be the product lead, continuing to focus on technical development and new functionalities. ‘I will also be discussing with our customers about how the product should evolve with all the new things that keep developing with marine fuels, such as new fuel types and regulations,’ he explains.
StormGeo’s core offering focuses on vessel routing and performance and, says Plum, the synergies between BunkerMetric’s marine fuel analytics software and StormGeo’s products are clear. ‘We talk to the same people in the same companies and there is very good commercial overlap,’ he notes. ‘This was one of the main drivers of the acquisition and the BunkerMetric business supplements StormGeo’s existing portfolio very well.’
For Plum, integration with a large company will allow the BunkerMetric business to scale up and extend its geographical reach. As a start-up, BunkerMetric scored its share of commercial breakthroughs, but the acquisition will enable it to step up to the next level.
As he explains: ‘StormGeo has over 6,000 vessels that are using its routing service on a monthly basis and it has wide exposure to many shipping companies – this is something that we would have had difficulty in reaching on our own.
'Because we are now part of a large and very well-established organisation, this opens a lot of new doors.’
Over the past 5-10 years a number of start-ups have emerged in the bunker procurement and vessel performance analytics space, and it now seems there is a trend towards business consolidation in order to gain critical mass and drive forward with expansion ambitions. Plum agrees this is a trend but one that is driven as much by operational imperatives as business growth considerations. He suggests that vessel operators are looking for further integration of the various data platforms they use on a day-to-day basis.
‘[Bunker planning] is only one piece of the puzzle if you are a vessel operator,’ he says. ‘There are 10-20 other things operators also need to manage and going into each and every small system to optimise it doesn’t work for them – they need consolidated tools from an organisation that is much wider.
‘And from our side, we can make sure that we are integrated and aligned and working from the same sets of data.’
Looking ahead, Plum believes there are many more opportunities to be tapped in the marine fuels sector.
‘The digital products for bunkering are going to look a lot more advanced five years from now,’ he says.
‘We will keep investing in this and will probably invest even more because we now have more resources – this game is not finished yet, there is still a lot to happen.’