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Nippon Yusen's digital wallet to help foreign crew with remittances

App lets employees convert e-money into any currency at Citibank ATMs

NYK's payment app uses QR codes to settle transactions.

TOKYO -- Japanese shipping giant Nippon Yusen is planning to develop a payment platform that will allow crew members to more easily send money home as well as purchase products and services in different ports of call, the company said on July 25.

Called Marcopay, the digital wallet will launch as early as next year. The app can act as a direct-deposit account for wages and is capable of payments using QR codes. Users can also withdraw cash from Citibank ATMs and send remittances back home, a crucial service for the company's non-Japanese crew.

The shipper, also known as NYK Line, said it developed the app to address financial challenges faced by its crew at home and abroad. NYK also expects the app to attract more job applicants.

The app will be provided through a 50-50 joint venture formed with Philippine logistics company Transnational Diversified Group. The partners have applied with the Philippine central bank to be certified as e-money provider.

Because direct deposits will be denominated in dollars, NYK said it will enter into a partnership with Citibank at the end of the month. Users of the app can withdraw money in their preferred currency at the bank's ATMs or branches around the world.

The app can be used to make purchases aboard ships, as well as in stores or restaurants. NYK will collect a service fee every time the payment service is used.

The app aims to improve the quality of life for ship employees. Crew members face difficulties applying for bank loans or credit cards in their home countries despite earning more than $900 a month, which is a middle-class income in places like the Philippines. This is because the work is performed on a contractual basis for each ship, often times blocking the workers from the credit system in their home countries.

NYK said it is looking to expand the platform by inviting rivals such as Mitsui O.S.K. Lines in Japan and Dutch shipper Maersk to take part.

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