"I used to work alone in my garage until 3 a.m., then wake up at 7 a.m. to continue. I don’t think it was healthy but that’s what I did. I believed in what I was doing and I had to do it properly,” says this Dutchman with a doctorate in hydrodynamics, who developed the world’s first onboard ship motion forecasting system.
In 2003, he stood at the quayside watching the Sealand New York leave the port of Hamburg. As the Costamare-owned containership set sail, he still remembers thinking “Wow! That’s the first vessel with OCTOPUS-Onboard.”
Today, the name OCTOPUS denotes a suite of hardware and software products that improve the safety and efficiency of ships at sea. Besides forecasting and measuring motions, the range includes speed advice, fuel consumption monitoring and DP (dynamic position) capability advice. The “arms” of OCTOPUS gather input from sources such as the weather forecast, ballast computer and motion sensor, which it then interprets to support the shipmaster in making decisions.
OCTOPUS products are now used on all types of ships around the globe. Around 80 percent of semi-submersible heavy lift vessels use OCTOPUS-Onboard, as do more than 70 vessels belong to French container operator CMA-CGM. Some of the biggest, most impressive offshore vessels have also been equipped with OCTOPUS-Onboard. For instance, Subsea7’s Seven Borealis, as well as the Stanislav Yudin and Oleg Strashnov from Seaway Heavy Lifting and the Pacific Osprey and Pacific Orca from Swire Blue Ocean. Maritime universities all over the world train future maritime engineers with OCTOPUS-Office.
“In the beginning, it was difficult – you had to beg a company to export their data to OCTOPUS. These days it’s a bit easier because the client says, ‘We want to have OCTOPUS, you have to make sure that you export to OCTOPUS,’ so this has become a nice advantage over the years,” says Adegeest.
This success is something he could only have dreamt of as he worked relentlessly in his garage. His vision was to create an application that could be used in ship operations, to the same technological standard as that used for building a ship. At the time, while a vessel was designed and manufactured at the highest technical level, once it started operating, the captain merely received a weather forecast by fax. He then interpreted this as best he could based on his experience.
Adegeest developed the OCTOPUS range from the Seaway seakeeping software designed by Johan Journeé, associate professor in ship and offshore hydromechanics at Adegeest’s alma mater, Delft University of Technology.
Adegeest visited a host of maritime companies to gain an understanding of their needs regarding seakeeping and monitoring of fleet performance. His vision was to create a program that delivered practical information for decisions at sea during ship operations.
But things didn’t always go smoothly. Adegeest, who had previously worked at the Maritime Research Institute in the Netherlands and Det Norske Veritas (DNV) in Norway, started Amarcon, an independent consultancy company in hydrodynamics, with two colleagues in Norway in 2001. He began work on the motion forecasting software, but the company flopped due to a lack of projects.
Adegeest then found himself back in the Netherlands working for Imtech Marine & Offshore in 2002. As luck would have it, the contacts he made there landed him a project for Germanischer Lloyd that was exactly in line with his vision about navigation and decision support at sea.
He was not the only one thinking this way. At the time, many other companies were working in the same area. The competition was fierce to be first with a working system. Adegeest rose to the challenge.
“I don’t like to deliver something that doesn’t work, and if it’s technically possible, then it’s just a matter of doing it,” he says. “A lot of people say to me they’d like to start their own company and I tell them to just do it. Either you do it or you don’t, but you can’t do it half-heartedly.”
Do it he did. After receiving the OCTOPUS-Onboard order for Sealand New York, Adegeest started Dalfsen-based Amarcon B.V., which ABB acquired in 2012.
Besides watching the first OCTOPUS-Onboard ship sail away in Hamburg, another highlight he remembers is a meeting in Marseilles with the newbuild director of CMA-CGM.
As Adegeest tells it: “He told me he was happy with the first installation of OCTOPUS-Onboard, then he said, ‘Hey, Leon, could you make us an offer for the other vessels?’ I said, ‘Sure. Which ones?’ When he answered ‘All of them,’ meaning 35 vessels, I was just blown away.”
These days Adegeest is planning to move Amarcon to new offices close by in Dalfsen towards the end of the year. Once again, he is going for a first.
“ABB Benelux wants to make these offices a showcase for a new way of working. We had some workshops with HR experts on how to combine private and working life and place-and-time-independent working.
“They thought the new Amarcon offices could be a pilot for a new way of working. We’ll have some offices, some cubicles where people can sit and do quiet work, sofa corners for informal meetings. It’s going to be a more playful environment than what we have now, more creative looking. We want it to reflect our innovative nature.”
With Adegeest at the helm, that innovative quality is sure to be reflected.