Exis Technologies has been a leader in dangerous goods compliance software systems for 30 years. We take a look back at how the company began and how it has developed over the years to the present day.
There have been many accidents involving mis-declared goods ashore leading to accidents thousands of miles out at sea. An explosion below deck on the Hanjin Pennsylvania in November 2002 off Singapore is one that caused catastrophic damage, probably due to mis-declared DG. As far back as 1980 it was apparent to Ken Burgess, the founder (and now non executive Chairman) of Exis Technologies, that there was a need for more information and better practices for companies transporting dangerous goods. Today, Exis Technologies supplies computer-based systems for the management of dangerous goods in sea transport to 17 of the top 20 container lines worldwide.
Ken started his campaign to address the need for improvements in DG transport as the first publisher of Hazardous Cargo Bulletin in 1980. This was a ground breaking publication for the transport industry. Although he is no longer the publisher, HCB has remained in circulation for 37 years and is a popular magazine read by DG professionals around the globe.
Through his association with HCB, Ken became an important information source for frustrated shippers and carriers requiring help with specific DG shipping problems. At that time, training courses and support for staff shipping DG were basic or non existent. The IMO Code was available in book format, but the number of enquiries made it impossible to deal with a paper manual reference point. Ken's background at Whessoe Technical Computing and his close association with many of the ground breaking computer software programmers at the company enabled him to develop the first digital database. With email marketing and websites still waiting to be invented, Ken became a travelling salesman, living out of his suitcase, visiting Europe and the US to demonstrate his new cutting edge product.
Exis Technologies as it is known today was incorporated in 1987. As computer software improved, the next stage in product development was 'intelligent' software' that checked loads against the relevant Code to ensure compliance. This system was initially sold to airlines and customised to their particular business, and also to short sea ferries. In 1988, Exis sold a system to P&O Ferries at Dover, following an accident aboard the Herald of Free Enterprise which they had purchased from Townsend Torrenson only a couple of weeks earlier. They have been a loyal customer ever since. This sale marked a big step in the direction that the company would now take. Exis now decided to focus their efforts on sea transport, and gradually its customer base began to grow. With the expertise of the in-house software development team and collaboration with some of the top names in the industry, Exis developed a suite of DG compliance systems that would automate the dangerous goods shipping process for every link in the sea transport chain from individual shippers to deepsea container lines. Exis has now become the leader in its field with Hazcheck Systems which are used by 17 of the top 20 container lines, as well as shippers, forwarders, logistics companies, ports and ferry operators.
Exis has had a close relationship with the International Maritime Organization throughout the company's history. Exis won a contract to supply the digital IMDG Code to the International Maritime Organization, supplying the first version, Amendment 27, in 1994. Exis has been a contractor to IMO for the past 22 years, supplying digital versions of many of their products, including the IMDG Code, SOLAS and ShipBoard. When training for shore side staff involved in the shipping of DG became mandatory in January 2010, Exis developed IMDG Code e-learning, a computer-based IMDG Code training course, with the support of the IMO. When it was launched, it was the first e-learning course of its kind, and it is now used by 12 of the top 20 container lines, and helps to train thousands of staff worldwide. The course is sponsored by the TT Club, supported by ICHCA and has been accepted by many competent authorities worldwide.
In June 2014, a management buyout secured the company's future as a leader in the sea and shore-side marketplaces. Since then the company has embarked on several new projects with industry partners as well as consolidating its position in the container line market. Some milestones since then are:
- Hazcheck Web service launched
- Hazcheck website updated and relaunched, new corporate website launched
- CTUpack e-learning course launched and new website
- New Hazcheck Web Service launched for dangerous goods validation and data integration
- Development and support of the Cargo Incident Notification database and portal for the CINS organisation
- Dutch version of IMDG Code e-learning courses launched
- Launch of Hazcheck Portal, a new internet portal to simplify the management of the various dangerous goods restrictions imposed on or by container lines involved in the shipment of dangerous goods by sea.
- Two new courses launched for container packing and Solas VGM
- ITCO Tank Container e-learning course launched and new website
- Hazcheck Inspection system launched
The story of Exis Technologies is not just about building a business, and making a turnover, it is about a vision and drive to make the world a safer place for everyone across the globe.