Tomorrow’s World Today

Interview with Mark O’Neil, CEO & President, Columbia Shipmanagement

Today, the stakes are higher than ever: companies need to be twice as good, innovative and educated to stay ahead of the game. Mark O’Neil, CEO and President of Columbia Shipmanagement, describes the company’s global impact, explains the collaborative approach that has enabled it to diversify its services and stresses the role of technology in today’s shipping industry.



Why do you believe that your company deserves to be seen as a gamechanger? How great has its influence been on the local business scene and on the country?

By combining the strengths of our CSM Group with those of our partner companies, the influence of CSM is felt not only locally but, even more so, on a global scale. These days, there’s an absolute need to do more for less and better. Over the last 44 years, the Columbia Group, together with its partners and associate companies, has continuously evolved to meet that challenge head-on. We have developed a unique set-up that enables us to provide flexible packages of modular management & maritime services, fully customisable and specifically tailor-made for each client. We are shifting the current way of doing things by collaborating with partner companies to yield a wide range of additional services that provide added quality through integrated maritime services, including catering, mental health support, independent procurement services, waste management, impactful sustainability and ESG strategies, cutting-edge IT software development and even aircraft management. We are thus able to adapt and are prepared to respond rapidly to our clients’ requests.


Who founded the company and when? How has it evolved since then?

Columbia Shipmanagement was established by Heinrich Schoeller in Limassol in 1978. After four decades of experience and a long list of milestones achieved, CSM has become a leading force in the global maritime industry by adhering to an unequivocal commitment to quality, efficiency and continuous improvements to its services to the benefit of our clients and partners. With offices in Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Singapore, China and Saudi Arabia, and representatives in Japan and Korea, CSM has steadily established a network in strategic locations. Whether it is rolling out the suite of CSM Group products and services that can drive operational value or creating additional efficiencies through the work of CSM’s Vessel Performance Optimisation Control Room, we have evolved to offer our partners a scaled and tailored offering, a ‘second party’ shipmanagement operation and an integrated maritime services platform providing management, logistics, procurement, technology, IT, crewing, catering and people.


What kind of innovation did your company bring to the Cyprus market? What can you tell us about the story behind it?

We recognise the need for a more modern and realistic approach to achieving scalability in ship management. We were the first integrated maritime services platform to use Performance Optimisation tools to differentiate ourselves and transition away from third party management towards ‘second party’ shipmanagement operations. This has been further enhanced with the introduction of our portal-based training where course experts or tutors can contribute virtually to group training sessions or important client meetings, as holograms thousands of miles away, thereby maximising efficiencies, cutting costs and driving mentoring quality. The equipment we use is high-tech but very portable and takes the whole issue of speaker contributions to conferences or business meetings to a completely different level. A fleet director in one part of the world can mentor ships’ officers attending a conference in another, while customers and suppliers can have more intuitive and interactive meetings without having to get on a plane and fly thousands of miles to a meeting. This is ‘tomorrow’s world’ happening today.


Can we expect more innovation from your company in the future?

Digitalisation is not just about Tech and IT. Process and approach is an intrinsic part of innovation. A single solution is the answer which provides a holistic approach to performance optimisation – a one-stop-shop – including weather routing, consumption monitoring, bunker and lube oil monitoring and purchase optimisation, carbon emission control and monitoring, preventative maintenance, augmented reality training and repair. OneLink and its Environment Monitor, a Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) ready application that can be integrated with existing performance systems, will provide this. The app will track and monitor real-time CII ratings for all vessels (as the year progresses) and easily see which vessels potentially have problematic ratings, all while accurately forecasting a ship’s end-of-year CII rating, based on historical data and simulate different operating conditions that would impact the CII rating. The Environment Monitor will be able to see the trade-off between financial returns and potential CII rating. It is an EU-ETS ready solution, designed for the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions allowance trading system, and can analyse the carbon and commercial impact of current and upcoming voyages.


Is there an international company that you admire because of the way it has revolutionized its sector or the way we live and work?

Amazon is admirable for having completely revolutionized the way we live and work through its disruptive effect on the industry. No matter how you look at it, it currently is one of the biggest e-commerce companies in the world and although its business practices have occasionally drawn criticism, it is undeniable that Amazon is the biggest market disruptor of modern times. It has changed the way we shop, the way we work and the way we live through innovative technologies and practices.