Pramod Arora, President and CEO, Wireless Maritime Services (WMS)
In 2019, WMS celebrated a 15-year anniversary, set an all-time-high in the number of ships deployed with our service, scaled the deployment of our 4G LTE service on cruise ships, and commercially launched a brand-new Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solution in the commercial shipping market. Our team was excited to start 2020 on a high note, with many strategic milestones planned and in sight for the organization. Obviously, the landscape changed in late first quarter, and the challenges kept mounting up. Even when we saw the initial concerns coming out of Asia related to COVID-19 and its impact on our industry, we did not anticipate the length and scale of disruption eventually caused by the pandemic. None of our models predicted a 100% of cruise ships suspending operations for more than a quarter, something that has never ever happened in the cruise industry. Commercial shipping has fared better with 9% reduction in container shipping capacity, but the tactical constraints on activity and uncertainty about near and mid-term future has slowed down progress on many initiatives.
Safety is priority #1
The safety and care of our WMS employees is our top priority; it always has been. To meet the unique demand of our business we have developed COVID-19 procedures for both in-office and remote locations such as ports and ships. All employees are working remotely, and we are communicating with each other at all levels to maintain flow of information and decisions using connectivity tools on a scale we have never experienced before. We acted in a timely fashion, even before various government and health agencies came up with their recommendations and mandates. We thinned out our workforce coming into office locations, eventually going to 100% remote work, asked our employees who had been traveling to self-quarantine upon their return, all before this became a widely adopted practice. We communicated regularly and consistently about the need to use good judgement in day to day activities and have been able to prevent any COVID-19 incidences in the WMS family. We plan to continue to refine our design and processes around office activities as well as in the field to ensure that we keep our employees and everyone they come in contact with safe at all times. Our head of network and operations, Ian McGhie said it best, “We are operating to minimize risk for our team. They should feel safer visiting a ship than a grocery store.”
We are in this together
When faced with crises such as this pandemic, we all fare best when we work together; lend a helping hand when we can and ask for help when we need. We have tried, and will continue, to do our part. Our industry has been hit harder than many others, and opportunities to help each other present themselves constantly. It is common knowledge that tens of thousands of crew members are stuck on their quest to get to their home countries, while maneuvering complex logistical and regulatory issues. On ships where WMS provides Wi-Fi connectivity, we have done that free of charge since the start of the pandemic to help our cruise line customers as well as their crew members. We have kept our cellular network up and running to keep the communication lines open on our cruise ships as they move around the world on different quests, either to take crew members home, or to various locations to maintain and prepare them for post COVID world. We are doing our part to continue to pay our small business suppliers that depend on continued work for their livelihood, such as janitorial services, as we are aware that they are the hardest hit in this crisis. At the same time, I would like to personally thank some of our cruise line customers who have helped us with flexible payment terms so we can improve our liquidity in the short term. Times like these show us who our friends are. We will not forget this gesture.
Re-deploying resources. Re-emerging stronger.
Second quarter of 2020 has been unlike any other time in our company’s 15-year history, certainly the most challenging time in my 7 years at the helm of WMS. However, I believe in the resilience of our business, that of the cruise industry and while we have taken measures to contain costs and maintain our liquidity, we are also utilizing our resources to be prepared for the eventual resumption of our industry and to ensure that our products and capabilities are slated to add even more value to our users in the post COVID environment.
We have redeployed our resources around different activities to improve processes and upgrade our core network, also utilizing this time to modify our technical documentation which in-turn will streamline our existing processes and make our frontline employees more efficient. Our teams have continued their work on new product development as well as working on improving our current product portfolio to make it more attractive and affordable to the end users as we ramp up our business in the second half of the year, in what most experts believe will be a challenging macro-economic environment for a substantial portion of consumer and enterprise segments. We are in the business of connecting people, and if there’s one thing that has continued to shine brightly during the darkness of this pandemic, it is the human connection; it was the way we found our way back to the simplicity of calling each other, talking to each other, and ironically we found our way back to really being there for each other during a time when we physically couldn’t touch each other.
We are now focusing on things that enable us to continue delivering our brand promise to enable digital transformation shaping the future of maritime by connecting people, data and things through a seamless wireless network. We are adapting to the challenges we face today and designing toward the future with determination and resilience. We are committed to our employees, customers, partners and stakeholders in anticipation of smoother sailing ahead.