when useful, these data favor one company over another. Government must try to avoid favoritism in any actions in support of an industry.
The role of government in developing commercial maritime marketing technologies has been limited to basic data collection such as that associated with customs, census, and vessel registration activities. There is no generally available government source at this time that provides price, vessel-movement, insurance, and other commercially important information. In fact, governments, including the U.S. government, rely on commercial sources for understanding maritime issues and would be hard pressed to match the quality and quantity of marketing information and data already available on the commercial market. While data and information marketing technologies are, therefore, important for the rejuvenation of U.S. shipbuilding, there is little that government can do in this area that is not already being taken care of by the private sector. Moreover, shipbuilders must have people in their marketing departments who are skilled at asking the right questions of the commercial databases and at analyzing the data to suit particular market inquiries and yard projects.
The integrated marketing approach used effectively by foreign shipbuilders is one in which a builder's business processes and technology use are closely coordinated to achieve an overall competitive advantage. Experts in commercial practice suggested that U.S. shipbuilders should follow similar steps, which are already well known to U.S. shipbuilders, although they are far behind in implementing them.
First, evaluate the needs and requirements of the ocean shipping industry for new or converted ships, matching the builder's facilities, capabilities, and financial resources with those segments of the market that make the most sense, that is, those segments that promise the greatest opportunities for growth and for the yard to compete effectively. Shipbuilders should collect and interpret intelligence on trade routes and commodities from commercial and government services; from the builders' marketing and salespeople; and, especially, from shipowners in the targeted trades. The right approach requires more than talking to owners during periodic sales calls; it also requires conducting market research before owners are in the marketplace seeking proposals to meet their needs.
Second, identify specific needs and customers based on the results of the initial evaluation and develop initial conceptual designs. Design studies reflecting research and knowledge of the shipowner's particular trade provide support to sales personnel, especially when a shipbuilder is attempting to penetrate new markets. These studies give the shipbuilder's representatives an entree to the shipowner. In ensuing discussions, the shipbuilder learns more about the needs and insights of participants in the market segments of interest. Resulting ideas are then developed further by the shipbuilder's engineering personnel, who work closely in support of the overall marketing effort. Based on interactions with owners, shipbuilders are also able to refine their targeted markets and conceptual designs.