Study: Startups' key role in digitalisation of shipping and offshore sectors

Study: Startups' key role in digitalisation of shipping and offshore sectors

New and original research into maritime startups conducted for Inmarsat by UK GovTech venture firm and research house, PUBLIC, concludes that more bandwidth connecting ships to shore at lower cost than ever before is empowering a new breed of single-minded innovators to bring the true benefits of digitalisation to the shipping and offshore sectors.

The report, ‘Trade 2.0: How Startups are driving the next generation of maritime trade’, and co-authored by Nick Chubb and Leonardo Zangrando, locates the maritime sector at an inflection point; open to big data, blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing, at a time when emissions regulations are pushing it away from the fossil fuels that have framed its business model.

Estimating that this market is worth US$106bn as a whole today, the report predicts the value of Ship Technology (ShipTech) rising to US$278bn by 2030. Significantly, in what represents the first ever market value estimate, they go on to predict exponential growth for maritime startups. The projection is based on direct input from 100 startups and two years of tracking 240 active startups by the authors’ database of maritime innovation.

The report says that, in 2018, just US$4.2bn (£3.4bn) of digital spending went to startups and small innovators, with the rest going to corporations that also sell operational technology and hardware. However, as barriers to consume digital services at sea come down, the total spending on digital services from startups and small to medium sized enterprises (SME) will rise to over $111bn by 2030, representing a compound annual growth rate of 120%.

Welcoming the research, Ronald Spithout, President Inmarsat Maritime says:

“These are exciting results for our industry, showing that startups and investors should see maritime as offering significant market opportunities for the next ten years.”

The findings also align closely with group investments and Inmarsat’s role as an enabler of maritime digitalisation with close to 7,500 VSAT installations completed, says Spithout. In 2019 alone, Inmarsat has launched the shipping industry’s first Internet of Things (IoT) platform (Inmarsat Fleet Data), added partners to its Certified Application Provider programme, worked with startups through the Inmarsat Digital Incubation scheme and backed two high profile maritime accelerator programmes.

Inmarsat has joined forces with startup programmes Rainmaking Trade and Transport Impact (T&TI) and Bluetech Accelerator, which support the potential of the IoT in maritime, ports and the supply chain. Inmarsat seeks to help innovators find a route to market via the high-speed Inmarsat communications infrastructure that connects over 160,000 vessels, ports, road and rail networks worldwide.

The new report indicates that maritime startups raised nearly $200m in venture capital investment in 2018, just four years after the creation of the world’s first accelerator dedicated to the sector. Last year, 25 programmes existed, with 226 startups collectively ‘graduated’ to date.

Also featured are case studies of startup solutions to enhance ship and port operations, and ship management. These include drone-based remote inspection from RIMS BV, approved by nine class societies, and the automated crew travel system from C Teleport.

Inmarsat also highlights the fact that several of the standout innovators are UK-based. These include: Workrest, a smart crew logger of rest hours for any device, to ensure compliance; Green Sea Guard, a sensor-in-funnel plus reporting solution to verify emissions compliance; the HiLo solution to reduce risks by recording, analysing and feeding back data on ‘high frequency, low impact’ incidents to ships; and the constantly updated and voyage-specific BunkerEx pricing portal.

Spithout says:

“As this important report shows, it is more important than ever for startups, corporate suppliers and ship operators to collaborate. We’re championing open innovation, collaboration and partnership, and reaching out to identify opportunities to co-research and co-create new digital products with external innovators to serve our existing customers and open up new markets. Exciting new collaborations with some of the start-ups covered in this report are bringing game-changing digital products to the maritime industry.”