‘We’ve also integrated a mobile top-up solution… If a crew member wants to add funds to his account in England or his grandmother’s account, he can log in and transfer funds from the app, while on the ship or schedule top-ups in advance,' says ShipMoney President Stuart Ostrow.
‘Wires, cash pay-outs, mobile top-ups, card-to-card transfers, along with other proprietary feature functionality, differentiate us from anyone else in the marketplace. Because we own the card system and platform end to end, we exercise full control over all our cardholder and client solutions.'
ShipMoney - a maritime payment solutions provider that enables crew members to send money anywhere in the world while onboard or onshore via a virtual or physical payment card - has recently expanded its range of services, giving seafarers more options to manage their money.
Using the platform, crew members can select their chosen means of transferring money based on conversion rates, serving as a comparative marketplace designed specifically for crew.
Finding new solutions
ShipMoney owns, manages, and develops the processing and account management system in-house, which allows the company to adapt to the changing needs of cruise lines and seafarers, while devising news ways of ensuring crew members can always access their funds. ‘What happens if a crew member loses his card when they are onboard? Or when they are home? What if there’s an issue with a wire payment? Or a cash pay-out with Western Union or MoneyGram?' says Ostrow.
‘We’ve developed version 2.0 of remote card personalisation - the same onsite printing solution that produces cards and is used by many bank branches - to print cards onboard the ships. If a crew member loses their card, we can replace it very simply, quickly, and in a secure setting. This technology is also used by some cruise and commercial clients shoreside in their offices and at manning agencies to make sure that we can provide the best possible experience and service to the crew,' asserts Ostrow.
‘We’ve also developed virtual cards: you log in, get a security code, and you obtain an image of your card. It has your name, the card number, expiration date, and security code - everything you need to shop with it online. So, if a crew member loses their card on a remote island in Indonesia, we can replace it with a virtual card until they can get their replacement card. They can still wire money home, access our remittance partners, top up mobile accounts and shop online, send card-to-card transfers and more. The only thing they cannot do with it is withdraw cash out of an ATM.’
Ostrow further adds, 'We’ve acquired a significant amount of institutional knowledge and experience to service crew members worldwide, both onboard and at home. It may look easy, but it’s not.'
Advantages for crew
'Most crew contracts in the industry are denominated in US Dollars. If a cruise or shipping company wires USD to a bank account denominated in foreign currency, the receiving bank converts the incoming USD at their own exchange rate, which is generally opaque to the crew member. They do not receive their full pay when this happens,' explains Ostrow. 'One of the benefits with ShipMoney is that when companies pay their crew, the seafarers will always receive the full amount in real-time to their ShipMoney account, anywhere in the world: they receive exactly what was sent when it was sent. The crew member, in turn, can manage their wages however they see fit.'
10-years in the making
A self-confessed ‘accidental entrepreneur,’ Ostrow edged into devising payment solutions for seafarers more than 10 years ago, after recognising an emerging opportunity for prepaid card solutions while working as a ‘frustrated CPA.’
'The cruise industry was not my initial target market,' concedes Ostrow. 'After being introduced to the industry by a college friend, I had an epiphany. A realization that there are 250,000+ crew members paid in cash and virtually all of them are foreign nationals. It was literally the perfect market for this solution.'
He went on to land Norwegian Cruise Lines with Ocean Pay, his first company, before he sold the business to Brightwell in 2011. Ostrow then started ShipMoney as version 2.0 of that first business.
Now based in Miami, ShipMoney’s clients include V. Ships, MSC Cruises, Scenic Cruises, Bernhard Schulte, Viking, The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection.
Given the pandemic, Ostrow believes now 'is the perfect time' for cruise lines to explore technologies like ShipMoney and re-evaluate their current providers. 'We started this industry from a simple business plan. It is humbling to witness how it has evolved and been adopted across the industry as the universal way to pay crew.