Blue Water Shipping Inc.
The costs associated with docking, unloading and preparing a bulk carrier vessel for its next shipment can quickly add up. “With shipments that we handle often worth over twenty, thirty, forty million dollars, a lot is at stake,” Blue Water Shipping President Matt Boucree stresses. “Small details can easily add up to tens of thousands of dollars. There is nothing more gratifying than to call a client to let them know where we saved them significant sums of money.”
Dockage, tugboats, personnel and other fees charged by ports of call increase based on how long the process lasts. For Blue Water Shipping, limiting the time its bulk carrier clients spend in port gives it an advantage in a highly competitive industry. “We have about 50 competitors in our ports,” Boucree explains. “Time is money in this business – our goal is to dispatch the vessel in the quickest amount of time possible.”
The Metairie, La.-based company offers vessel agency services including filing 96-hour electronic notice of ship arrivals or departures with the Coast Guard, pre-arrival and in-port logistics and scheduling, preparing U.S. Customs and Border Protection and other documentation, barging and rail coordination, inspection supervision, stowage preparation, financial negotiation and emergency management.
Diversification is Key
Blue Water serves carriers that import and export goods including grain, steel, fertilizer, ore, minerals and oils.
“Diversification is the key to our business,” Boucree says. “Our ability to handle multiple commodities allows us to provide the highest level of service to our customers, which helps us build long-standing relationships.”
In addition to its headquarters in Metairie, the company maintains offices in Houston.; Portland, Ore.; Mobile, Ala.; and Federal Way, Wash. Major ports served include those along the Mississippi and Columbia rivers, the Puget Sound, and the Gulf of Mexico.
The company also supervises and coordinates vessels on the east and west coasts using an out-port agency network, giving it full coast-to-coast coverage, Boucree notes.
`A Big Leap’
Founded in 1979, the independently owned company has grown to be one of the largest agencies of its kind in the United States.
“Our mission has remained unchanged – to provide the finest agency services available with dedicated, conscientious professionals, providing rapid and concise communications, utilizing state-of-the-art technology, with unending dedication to our customers,” the company says.
On the technology end, company founder Don Bass’ decision to use Apple Macintosh computers since 1990 continues to pay off for Blue Water. The company uses Macintosh desktop and laptop computers as well as iPhones, iPads and related devices. Investing in Apple computers had placed the company above the technology curve and eliminated the need for it to invest in virus detection and prevention software, Boucree notes.
Blue Water Shipping uses technology in a variety of ways, including:
- Mobile connectivity for its agents, even while onboard vessels;
- Video and audio presentations and training tools such as virtual tours of vessels and port facilities;
- Instantaneous voice, picture and data communications; and
- An interactive website that includes highly detailed port maps as well as fee estimates.
“In just 30 years, the industry has gone from sending cables to vessels through radio stations via Morse code to sending e-mails with mega attachments, files and photos,” Boucree says. “Staying on the cutting-edge 20 years ago was a piece of cake. Now the edge moves daily, but there is no question, we are the leader.
Our competitors do their best to imitate us which keeps us on our toes and striving for continual improvement.”
A Commitment to Employees
Blue Water Shipping prides itself on providing a positive, comfortable work environment for its employees.
“We own our buildings, maintain a fleet of cars and own our computer systems, but our people are our most important asset and we try to treat them that way,” Boucree stresses.
“Our business is 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so it takes a special kind of person to be an agent for us.”
The company provides extensive training and development programs as well as benefits including on-site wellness facilities. “Our turnover over the years has been extremely low,” adds Boucree, who joined the company in 1989.
“When I entered the business it was, and still is, common for agents to jump from one place to the other, but when people come to Blue Water, they stay,” he explains. “We understand the commitment they have and the sacrifices they make for our business.”