Study Identifies Key Role of Startups in Maritime’s Digitalization

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September 11, 2019

Illustration credit: Inmarsat

Maritime startups and connectivity will play a key role in bringing the benefits of digitalization to the shipping and offshore sectors, according to a new study, the conclusions of which were revealed in a report released this week at the London International Shipping Week.

The report, titled ‘Trade 2.0: How Startups are driving the next generation of maritime trade’, was conducted for Inmarsat by UK GovTech venture firm and research house, PUBLIC. It reveals that 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.

In what what is believed to be the first ever market value estimate, the study estimates that the Ship Technology (ShipTech) market today is worth US$106 billion as a whole, with that value expected to rise to US$278 billion by 2030. Significantly, it goes on to predict exponential growth for maritime startups, based on direct input from 100 startups and two years of tracking 240 active startups by the authors’ database of maritime innovation.

According to the study, in 2018, just US$4.2 billion 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 $111 billion by 2030, representing a compound annual growth rate of 120%.

“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,” commented Ronald Spithout, President Inmarsat Maritime.

The findings also align closely with group investments and Inmarsat’s role as an enabler of maritime digitalization with close to 7,500 VSAT installations completed, says Spithout.

The new study also indicates that maritime startups raised nearly $200 million 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 programs existed, with 226 startups collectively ‘graduated’ to date.

Also highlighted 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.

“As this important report shows, it is more important than ever for startups, corporate suppliers and ship operators to collaborate,” says Spithout. “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.”

The report is available to download at

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