Chemical tanker fleet operations involve multi-million-dollar assets, with ships that transport highly valuable, volatile and hazardous cargoes across the ocean daily. In this sector of the industry, the highest levels of safety are required to handle cargoes properly. Deviation from handling, storage or tank cleaning requirements specified for each individual shipment could have catastrophic consequences.
That’s where Milbros comes in.
For many years, the Milbros platform has supported the chemical tanker sector in ensuring the utmost operational safety. The software is well-known for putting need-to-know chemical cargo information at the fingertips of every user. Its reliability and invaluable nature have made it the top trusted platform for the industry’s leading tanker operators.
For the past thirteen years, Capt. Soren Ibsen served as Q88’s Vice President of Milbros Systems, and in December, Capt. Ibsen stepped down from his position to retire. On that note, Capt. Lavall joined Q88 in June of 2022 filling the role of Milbros Product Manager.
Capt.Laval brings a wealth of experience from his 25+ years in the chemical tanker industry—both seagoing and shoreside. Adding to his long list of experiences in tanker operating companies, Capt. Lavall has also been a longtime user and advocate for the Milbros platform. With Capt. Lavall onboard, we know it will be smooth sailing from here.
We sat down with Capt. Lavall to discuss his aspirations for his new role and the future of Milbros.
Now that you are officially part of team Q88, what are your plans for Milbros?
Firstly, I am proud to be part of the team and to continue the legacy that Capt. Soren Ibsen has created. He has made the Milbros product very well-known in the tanker space and earned his widespread recognition as the face of Milbros.
For me, in addition to continuing his legacy, I bring new perspectives and will draw upon my experiences to evolve the system and continuously better it for users. Direct communication with the customer and the end user is also very important to me, so customer meetings are my first port of call in the coming months. Capt. Ibsen and I took many customer meetings together before his retirement, aiming to make the transition between us as seamless as possible and ensure that our customers know that they are in safe hands with me as the new Product Manager for Milbros.
Trying to assist customers with their challenges and making their lives easier is what gets me out of bed in the morning. Making the impossible, possible is part of my working mindset. In fact, I had a stamp for the back of my business cards with that exact phrase! I believe that with the right knowledge, many things that seem impossible can be made possible. When people say something cannot be done, I find a way to assist people and enable their success. I’ll bring this approach to Milbros and to helping our customers–particularly with technical queries.
How will you ensure Milbros remains ahead of chemical tanker operator needs?
That’s a really good question. Capt. Ibsen was a very active member of many regulatory forums and groups, including the US Coast Guard’s National Chemical Transportation Safety Advisory Committee (NCTSAC) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). I will step into his roles in these regulatory communities to ensure that Q88 and Milbros remain at the forefront of what’s coming for chemical tanker operators from a regulatory perspective.
During my time as Head of Operations for Team Tankers, I served on the INTERTANKO Chemical Tanker Committee. This is one of many INTERTANKO committees, but is a very important one—participants see all proposed rules and regulations in advance and have their say in influencing them. I will continue to attend this forum in my new role as well.
Can you tell us a bit more about your background in the chemical tanker sector?
I started my career as a cadet when I was eighteen, sailing shortsea tankers. Following my studies at marine college I joined the Danish Navy as an operations officer and stayed for 22 months, slightly longer than the conscript period.
After I left the Navy, I sailed on shortsea tankers once again for Herning Shipping and Wonsild Tankers via EMS (Eitzen Maritime Services) Ship Management.
During my time with EMS, I quickly rose through the ranks, becoming the youngest captain in the company at the age of 27. I officially took command of a chemical tanker a month later when I turned 28. My career also took a turn into shore-based roles as a Marine Superintendent, dealing with the vetting aspects of the industry, and it also took me to work on ship building projects in China. That was until the global recession hit in 2009.
Back in Copenhagen, I took another shore-based role—this time as Manager of Operations and Engineering for Oiltanking Copenhagen A/S at their Copenhagen terminal. At that time, there had been some bad accidents within that industry. So, equipped with an unlimited budget, it was my job to avoid ending up on CNN breaking news. We worked to enhance safety by refurbishing the terminal and implementing new safety procedures.
Eventually I went back to sailing as a Chief Officer with D/S Norden. I then joined Eitzen Chemical, where I was promoted to Head of Operations at their Westport office in Connecticut. I was the youngest person they had seen in this role, but I got to work quickly and earned the respect of my colleagues, changing the way the team worked.
During that time, Eitzen Chemical changed their name to Team Tankers. I was sent down to run a company that Team Tankers purchased in Houston, where I was responsible for overseeing operations. My next stop after Team Tankers was Hafnia, then Stolt Tankers USA, where after one week I had the full number of ships that I needed to manage, and I did not look back.
And we arrive at today—my role as Product Manager, Milbros. This is a new frontier for me and I couldn’t be more excited to bring the experiences from my career to-date to this role.
How was your experience as a user of Milbros?
Interestingly, when I joined Eitzen Chemical, one of my first calls was with Capt. Soren Ibsen. Since then, I have been using Milbros extensively during my commercial operations career.
I have worked with companies who have used their own chemical databases and filled their own proprietary information, which they fed with the products that they transported. I have had experience working across a wide variety of solutions over the course of my career. My overarching belief is that Milbros has so many strong aspects related to safety compared to some other sources, which are not as comprehensive.
I believe that the time savings related to searching for information on cleaning or different particulars for chemicals is an especially crucial feature of Milbros. When a crew hears a chemical name, they can instantly search for and find the correct information within the software. Getting your hands on information very quickly, particularly when the information might not have come down the chain, is critical from both a safety and time perspective. Even after working in the chemical tanker sector for over a quarter of a decade, I still don’t know all of the chemical products transported by sea. Therefore, having access to an up-to-date database for conducting risk assessments for loading products, safe handling, discharging, and tank cleaning after discharging the product is absolutely invaluable.
Compatibility and storage requirements form a big part of what crews search for in Milbros Onboard. All products are registered with a compatibility number as per USCG requirement, so that they can go in and check if they can stow products next to each other and understand the restrictions. Some products, if mixed, will ignite and make the ship into a bomb, and we have unfortunately seen that over the years.
What does the acquisition of Q88 by Veson Nautical mean for Milbros?
One of the reasons Veson acquired Q88 is due to the great number of synergies that exist across the products developed by both companies. I really see these synergies coming to fruition in the future that will combine the data and knowledge between Veson and Q88 products in the Veson IMOS Platform (VIP).
In the tanker sector, there is no one-stop solution, but Veson is working to expand its ecosystem of connected products to support tanker operators.
For me, it’s the perfect time to join the company and to continue the legacy created by Capt. Ibsen. Be sure to watch this space!