A Visit to Coracle of Cambridge


Searching around the Internet for something to listen to down the gym I was surprised to come across some shipping podcasts. It is rather surreal to be fighting the flab while listening to an in depth review of the impact the UK Bribery Act on shipping. Expanding the mind while shrinking the body, I suppose.

The podcasts are broadcast by Coracle, a company that provides online training for professionals in the shipping and commodity industries.  Coracle are based in Cambridge, close to where I live, and encourage people to call on them. So I did, incorporating it into a 50 mile training ride for a forthcoming sportive .

Coracle offices are in the St. John’s Innovation center, which is a new development near the Science Park in north Cambridge and close to the A14. Like most of Cambridge, the needs of the cyclist come first, and there are plenty of cycle lanes, although you have to watch out for zombies. On the return journey I used the fantastically smooth and fast 10-mile bridlepath from Cambridge to St Ives (the Busway).

I met James Tweed, the Managing Director of Coracle, and we quickly established we were part of the “Plymouth Mafia”, PYNDA graduates of the Shipping degree course in Plymouth. After Plymouth James worked as a tanker broker at Seascope, before moving onto to more cutting edge shipping businesses, including involvement in setting up a tanker freight derivatives broker and a shipping hedge fund. The establishment of Coracle is the latest business, and like the others, is at the forefront of what can be usefully done with new media technology.

So what does Coracle do and how does it make money? Coracle takes tradition paper / classroom content for a professional qualification, and turns it into a digital delivery process.  Coracle has done this with the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers (ICS) course, which is available online, and email, through smart phones, and podcasts. What James and his team have done is look at the requirements for delivery content to people who are fitting professional qualifications around the day job, be that at sea or ashore, and solve the problems using the latest digital media. This also applies to the behind-the-scenes processes such as exam marking and grading. The process is proven and can be applied to any professional qualification or company training scheme, although naturally most of what Coracle has done is in shipping and related fields.

The key is the delivery. When I did my ICS exams in the 1990s it was through distance learning, which meant staying behind at work in MRC’s old bus station offices on the Cowley Road in Oxford and writing out reams of paper to send off for marking. It was boring and tedious and the phone was always interrupting, whereas today I could be sitting in a coffee shop learning online or maybe reading an email from Coracle on the train. Delivery anytime, anyplace, any how.

I maybe wrong but I don’t recall the professional education side of shipping being part of the earlier Dot.Com boom. The hot websites were about replacing someone, usually the agent or  broker from the business loop.

Now we are in an App-Boom. Coracle already has several apps on the market, and are developing more. They are currently looking for app developers. If that is your thing, then give them a ring. After all Cambridge is a pretty good place to be, especially if you are a cyclist. I can vouch for that.

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About Craig Jallal
A shipping analyst whose feels the need to comment on the industry.

One Response to A Visit to Coracle of Cambridge

  1. The podcasts are great! It gives meaning to interrupted trips, delays and disruptions. The daily walk, the tram trip and every waiting time gives a new dimension 🙂

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