Marine-rescue firm turns to technology to stay afloat
‘[Now] we produce zero paper.’
STAYING AFLOAT: Pete Andrews, vice president at Safe/Sea, describes the company's iPad application to Christina Hopper at the R.I. Boat Show in January.
PBN PHOTO/DAVID LEVESQUE
By Kimberley Donoghue PBN Web Editor
Tablets have become an indispensible part of business for Safe/Sea marine rescue. The North Kingstown company is always on the lookout for technology innovations and utilizes iPads for everything from contacting their captains, to monitoring weather conditions and capturing a client’s signature at the end of a job.
In the past, “The captains would have to come in at the end of the shift with that piece of paper [bearing a client’s signature] and collate that with the printed case report,” said Pete Andrews, vice president, co-founder and minority owner of the company which began rescuing boats in Rhode Island waters in 1984 when the U.S. Coast Guard stopped providing free towing service in nonemergency situations.
Clear and effective communication tools are the foundation of the company’s business, which dispatches 50 to 60 rescues on an average summer weekend when batteries die, gas runs out or mechanical failures occur.
Safe/Sea, which has six rescue towboats, made its bet on Apple products from the beginning.
“We’ve been a Mac-based business for more than 20 years. We run the entire place off of a FileMaker database that I designed and developed,” Andrews said.
He had no informal information technology training but developed the database out of “business necessity” and now the entire company’s operations are based on it, he said.
And FileMaker Inc., a subsidiary of Apple Inc., was just the beginning for the small company.
Safe/Sea has bought every generation of iPhone – except for latest – and iPad since their first launch.
In the old days, a dispatcher would receive a call on a landline, and then contact a captain using a walkie-talkie. The captain would then have to jot down the information, head over to the ship and get out to sea without losing that piece of paper.
“[The iPads] cut down dramatically on the time that is required to transmit the information,” Andrews said, adding: “There are no errors in transmission. A lot of times, our boats – they can be noisy.”