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Pioneers of disruption

What can startups do for maritime?

With entrepreneurial spirit comes innovation and sustainability for the future—key areas of great advantage to the maritime industry. And as shipping continues to digitize and grow, a new generation of engineers will be required to deliver the expertise to embrace the change. This fresh talent can be found in startups.

In the past few years, disruptive technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain have transformed the way industries work. Startups have played a key role in these developments, but they are slow to take off in the shipping sector. Startup companies often overlook the maritime industry due to its conservative approach to digitization and close-knit community which can be hard to break into as a newcomer. They are often even unaware of the huge potential for digital technology in the sector. This lack of market knowledge presents a risk to startups who, statistically speaking, will struggle to be successful.

Encouraging startups into the maritime industry

While new entrepreneurs have the innovative spirit and skills to create a product, they often lack the capacity or facilities to bring that product to the wider market. The marine sector could encourage more partnerships with young businesses by offering them access to research and testing facilities or even initiatives to get them started.

If shipping companies encouraged new enterprises with better support, the whole industry could benefit in areas such as:

  • Innovative technology: Startups are key drivers of disruptive technology which will shake up the maritime industry. Smart monitoring devices will make it easier for shipowners to comply with ever tightening environmental regulations. Drones and unmanned vehicles will take on inspections and jobs that pose risk to ship crews. California-based startup Planck Aerosystems is one of the newcomers leading these developments at present. In addition, cloud technology and IoT could network entire fleets, offering shipowners a better overview of activities. Startups are hubs of disruptive innovation, and could offer the shipping sector many opportunities to increase efficiency and sustainability.
  • Future prospects: The shipping sector is aging. Experienced workers are entering retirement with not enough new talent coming into the workforce to replenish numbers. A wealth of digital technology, budding innovators, and general buzz in the maritime sector could attract much higher levels of young talent.
  • Industry experts: A growing number of maritime startups have emerged that share a common business story. These are frequently headed by an individual with a connection to maritime, who has recognized inefficiencies in the shipping sector and sought to improve them. One such example is Profile, a recruitment platform for the marine and energy industries. The company was founded by ex-mariner turned CEO Mark Swift who found job seeking in maritime to be inefficient and irrelevant to his skillset. His application now serves the marine industry by using profiling to match hiring managers to maritime professionals. This represents a combination of enthusiasm, industry experience, and dedication to improving the industry which could greatly enhance the way the shipping sector works.

In 2016, SKF concluded a successful business deal with marine engineer turned entrepreneur Fredrik Pettersson. The Turbulo Sludge Buoy was the result of hard work from a seafarer who saw the opportunity to optimize oil-water separation. SKF recognized the dedication in the expert design of the device, as well as its potential to streamline practices in the whole shipping industry.

A win-win relationship

The maritime sector is entering new waters in terms of digitization, and the pace will only increase. A relationship between shipping companies and startups could offer young entrepreneurs a whole new field of technology ripe for innovation while also creating a more efficient, more sustainable maritime industry.