European Business Development Manager
Sea Machines’ Frank Relou has a strong passion for two things: the marine industry and emerging technology. A resident of The Netherlands, Frank spent his childhood on the ocean, enjoying water sports and ship spotting. Though he spent the majority of his working years in the marine industry – first in vessel construction and later in sales – he says his love of technology as been key driver for his 20+ year career.
An avid learner, Frank immerses himself in the products he sells to become an expert. With a diverse background in marine industry sales, Frank has become an expert in everything from workboats and at-sea survival equipment to navigation technologies. But he knows that his success hinges on long-term relationships with customers.
“My job is to help customers think through their challenges to find solutions they had never considered,” Frank says. “I guide them through the process, with the understanding that there is trust involved. I have to be knowledgeable about my products, listen to their needs and understand how I can improve their business.”
From Frank’s perspective, emerging technologies, like Sea Machines’ autonomy, are very important for the marine industry to embrace. He likens any resistance to when computers were first introduced.
“Everyone automatically assumed that the computer would replace people’s jobs,” said Frank. “In fact, the opposite happened – computers created more jobs. Sea Machines’ technology is doing the same. We’re not replacing people; we’re making jobs different. We’ll always need qualified sailors and operators, but they won’t have to do their jobs manually thanks to modern technology.”
Frank has seen first-hand how the hydrographic survey segment has become an early adopter for autonomous technology, in part because so much of the work is based on boustrophedonic routes and tedious data collection. Combined with this, a shortage in qualified surveyors have forced companies to seek creative solutions.
“Survey companies can’t find the people they need. With autonomous technology, one surveyor based on shore can do the work of two or even three projects at sea, without actually working any harder,” Frank explained. “The technology takes over manual tasks and allows the human to execute more rewarding and higher-cognitive work. It’s also safer and more productive.”
Frank also points out the mariners today are relying on old technology and information in the wheelhouse, factors that increase risk at sea. Sea Machines’ technologies offer sensor fusion, bringing data from AIS, radar, GPS, ENC charts and more into a single view so mariners can make educated operational decisions faster. Built-in obstacle detection and collision avoidance capabilities reduce at-sea risk further. And introducing a shore-based team with full situational awareness for the vessel at sea provides redundancy and back-up watchkeeping for mariners.
“As a salesperson, my goal is to always promise on what I can deliver, and deliver on what I promised,” says Frank. “Having great technology solutions makes that easy.”