My Journey from AISLive to Windward

I’ve always been an enthusiast of how technology and data can be used to solve complex problems. In the last few years I’ve been focused on applying that to global trade, and particularly maritime.  

My more than 25 years in shipping has given me the opportunity to do a range of projects across owners, brokers and ports. I have also launched multiple online data products. Some of these have grown to become global businesses but all of them gave me a useful insight into the issues that people face when dealing with the complexity of the maritime space and global trade.  

In 2004 I joined a promising startup called AISLive.com, which was owned by Lloyd’s Register Fairplay in the UK, and HITT in the Netherlands. There were no staff and no customers but a great idea to track ships on the internet using AIS. I was hired as employee No.1 and my role was to turn it into a business. It was a great experience. In 2009, IHS bought the company, which is still going today. I carried on with my journey through various data adventures, buying great companies in the U.S. and managing the rollercoaster of integration. I took some time out to do a Masters in Research until 2016 as part of a doctoral programme on strategy – great background for working with data scientists.  

 

AISLive Screenshot. Source: IHS Maritime

After a couple of years working for the largest ports group in the UK, I shifted focus back to my passion for emerging technology and how it can change the world for the better. Then I took a Blockchain Strategy course at Oxford University.

This year I have been consulting to various maritime technology companies;  one of them was Windward. I’ve watched with great interest what the company has  been building for the last eight years. It’s carved out a niche as a maritime behavioral analytics expert that provides a complementary service to the great data brands I’ve worked for – and with – in the past.  

Given the recent news from the Gulf, it would appear that the timing of what Windward has built uniquely enables the company to deal with complex problems, such as new OFAC rules on sanctioned vessels. My interest in this was a recognition that the industry is transforming and that global trade is in flux. These are massive problems to solve, so the timing is right to address them in the only way that can deal with issues like this at scale: Artificial Intelligence. 

 

Ron Crean

The first area to address, since it is the most pressing problem for customers globally, is compliance and trade risk. The Windward team has  built a massive scale ‘go/no go’ approach that generates relevant behavioural analytics data and gives a clear steer based on pure data science.  

I was so impressed with the approach, the leadership, the team and the calibre of the company’s backers that I have accepted an offer to become Vice-President of Trade Business.

I’ve spent a lot of time with the team recently. The expertise and the technology they’ve built is really impressive. The concept of AI is discussed a lot in the media and it can seem a bit abstract at times. Maritime trade is a complex beast and it’s clear that the team has created an AI platform that is innovative, practical and supports compliance and trade risk professionals, enabling them to do a difficult job at scale.

My first project for the group will be leading the compliance and trade risk service based in London. Trade risk is just one piece of a wide-ranging puzzle that requires analytics to solve. There is more to come in response to demand for other financial crime inquiries from customers. Windward has been scaling quickly and is now also in Washington DC and London to support customers in multiple time zones. 

For existing and new contacts in my network in oil, banks, ports, shipbroking and bunkering, how are you dealing with expanded OFAC requirements in your business? I’d love to hear from you either directly or see you at the webinar on this topic on the July 31.

Ron Crean is Windward’s new VP Trade Business