This article is part of the “Logistics of the Future” series looking at the best logistics startups today.
Maritime shipping: it’s the quiet achiever of transport. After the revolutionary introduction of containerization by Malcolm McLean back in 1956, the industry was completely transformed. While it once took up to two whole weeks just to load and unload containers off a ship, piece by piece, the implementation of containerization not only has saved a huge amount of time when loading and unloading shipments, but it has also had an incredible impact on our global access to affordable goods: consumers may be surprised to learn that roughly 90 percent of everything we buy arrives by ship. As the quantity of goods carried by containers has risen from around 102 million metric tons in 1980 to about 1.83 billion metric tons in 2017, our current state of intercontinental trade, bulk transport of raw materials, and the imports/exports of affordable food and manufactured goods would simply not be possible without maritime shipping.
However, the industry is at a pivotal moment of change: Seeking economies of scale and lower unit costs, carriers are deploying bigger and bigger ships, already with capacities of over 21,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units). In addition, 2018 trade tensions between the U.S. and China, the world’s two largest economies, and the Global Sulphur Cap regulation by IMO set to go into effect in 2020 have also sent the maritime industry into a frenzy as they look for ways to cut costs during this uncertain period.
To address these issues, maritime logistics startups are using innovative tools like digital platforms, predictive analytics, fuel efficiency solutions, and others to help companies optimize their operations and cut costs during this crucial time, ensuring that more goods are received in a more efficient way.
This article highlights some of the best maritime logistics startups in the business looking to improve sea/ocean operations.
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In a volatile ocean freight market, ensuring you’ll be able to secure space during peak times is essential to achieving your company’s goals. While Flexport has now matured past its startup days, no list would be complete without mentioning this digital freight forwarder, which is migrating the traditional shipping operating model to the 21st century through its digital platform that allows clients to track their orders in real-time online.
Flexport is also unique in that it uses its own warehouse spaces to help cut down on transit times, saving businesses time and money when it comes to their shipping. They also help companies save money by using proprietary procurement software to better plan and manage allocation commitments with carriers to avoid expensive unfulfilled allocation costs. With all of these great tools, it’s easy to see why Flexport’s goal of competing with big names like DSV and Kuehne+Nagel may not be too far off.
Founders: Ryan Petersen
Headquarters: San Francisco, USA
Learn more about Flexport:
- “Flexport looking to enter big league with DSV and Kuehne+Nagel” – ShippingWatch
- “This Startup Is Going Up Against FedEx and UPS – and Coming Out on Top – INC.com
Named a Gartner Cool Vendor 2018 in Supply Chain Execution Technologies and Norway’s “Startup of the Year 2016”, Xeneta provides container freight pricing transparency with one platform in real time. In addition to their digital platform, the startup is also helping companies benchmark ocean container freight rates with their new neutral database, the Xeneta Shipping Index (XSI).
XSI allows parties to base rates transparently on Xeneta’s database of more than 65 million rates supplied by users of the company’s benchmarking service. With constant pricing fluctuation and even more uncertainty in times of new trade wars like that between the U.S. and China, shippers can depend on Xeneta to help their businesses stay afloat.
Founders: Patrik Berglund, Thomas Sorbo, Vilhelm K. Vardoy
Headquarters: Oslo, Norway
Learn more about Xeneta:
- “Logistics Startup of the Month: Xeneta” – Transmetrics Blog
- “Xeneta Offers New Approach to Index-Linked Container Contracts” – JOC.com
Named among Top 5 AI Startups for Supply Chain Management by Business Insider Intelligence, Transmetrics offers predictive optimization Software-as-a-Service based on Artificial Intelligence and machine learning for the cargo transport industry. All of their solutions consist of several steps – data cleansing and enrichment, demand forecasting and predictive optimization.
Transmetrics works with leading cargo companies like NileDutch, enabling them to streamline empty container flows through their unique predictive asset management tool, AssetMetrics. The software provides daily rolling AI-driven forecasts for the next 10-12 weeks based on the historical data and the external factors influencing the demand. The system also suggests the most optimal and actionable global plan for empty repositioning, storage, repair & maintenance for the next 12 weeks, which takes into account all the related costs (including grading, stevedoring, gate costs, etc.).
Companies that work with Transmetrics can expect to see double-digit percentage savings through the reduction of costs for handling empty containers, in particular, storage and transport costs, and the number of assets used. Over the years, Transmetrics has delivered multiple successful projects with top-tier logistics companies worldwide providing them with the tools for proactive and data-driven decision making. No wonder that DHL highlighted Transmetrics in their Logistics Trend Radar three consecutive times as a company to watch in Big Data and Anticipatory Logistics areas.
Founders: Asparuh Koev, Anna Shaposhnikova, Alexander Petkov, Rado Nikolov
Headquarters: Sofia, Bulgaria
Learn more about Transmetrics:
- “Transmetrics: The Startup That Helps Cargo Companies Stop Shipping Air” – Disruptor Daily
- “MARLINK SIGNS PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT WITH TRANSMETRICS TO OPTIMISE LOGISTICS OPERATIONS FOR MARITIME CUSTOMERS” – Marlink
Two words that any maritime shipper loves to hear: fuel efficiency. We4Sea is a data-driven platform which can monitor, report and optimize the fuel consumption of chartered ships. Using their in-house developed Digital Twin concept, this solution can start monitoring any conventionally powered ship within 24 hours – without requiring additional capital expenditures and new hardware onboard. And as the maritime industry starts preparing to meet the new global .5% sulphur cap, to be introduced in 2020, this solution couldn’t come at a better time. The new sulphur cap legislation may affect up to 70,000 ships, according to IMO estimates, leading to a 20-30% increase in total fuel costs – meaning fuel efficiency is going to play more of an important role than ever in the maritime industry.
The startup’s potential hasn’t gone unnoticed: In late 2018, industry leader Marlink signed a partnership deal that will enable We4Sea to further test and develop their fuel efficiency solutions with the help of Marlink’s broadband satellite communications network, while We4Sea will enable Marlink to develop tools that will help maritime companies meet new environmental standards. From ship owners to charterers, everyone can benefit from using this innovative, fuel-efficient solution – especially when the sulphur cap legislation comes into play.
Founders: Dan Veen, Michiel Katgert
Headquarters: Delft, The Netherlands
Learn more about We4Sea:
- “Logistics Startup of the Month: We4Sea” – Transmetrics Blog
- “Maritime Start-Up We4Sea Launches New Release of Fuel Monitoring Platform for Ships: New Big Data Technology Enables No-CAPEX Fuel Monitoring” – Hellenic Shipping News
In December 2018, Freightos announced their partnership with CMA CGM, the first major ocean carrier to be listed on the platform. With the help of this deal, the company will be able to provide customers with direct digital sales, booking, and shipment management on CMA CGM key TransPacific trade lanes. Freightos’ mission is to make global trade frictionless with an international online marketplace for the trillion dollar shipping industry.
The Freightos Marketplace is designed to help importers and exporters reduce logistics spend and save time with an instant comparison, booking, and management of air, ocean and land shipments from top logistics providers to book international shipping as smoothly as booking a flight online. They’ve even joined Amazon’s Solution Provider Network to help cut costs and delivery times for Amazon Sellers, a huge network that’s bound to grow even more in the near future.
Founders: Zvi Schreiber
Headquarters: Miami Beach, Florida, USA
Learn more about Freightos:
- “Advancing Digitization in Shipping” – Maritime Logistics Professional
- “Digital Marketplace Freightos Gains $45 Million in New Funding Round” – WSJ
Dead miles are one of the biggest (and most expensive) problems facing the shipping industry today. According to BCG, the shipping industry loses out on nearly $20 billion a year due simply to empty containers moving back and forth — losses that could be avoided when using the right tools.
Container xChange, based in Hamburg, Germany, is aiming to combat those huge losses by helping container lines around the world find partners for their one-way container shipments. It’s the world’s first online marketplace for container logistics, connecting users and suppliers of container equipment in a neutral and open platform to help negotiate deals and track containers while also benefiting from low demurrage and detention fees.
Company: Container xChange
Founders: Johannes Schlingmeier, Christian Roeloffs
Headquarters: Hamburg, Germany
Learn more about Container xChange:
- “Logistics Startup of the Month: xChange” – Transmetrics Blog
- “xChange Helps Container Lines Cut Expenses by Reducing Empty Containers Transit” – FreightWaves
The name says it all: For those who have trouble finding the right tank container for their shipment, TankContainerFinder has arrived to solve this exact problem by matching supply and demand for containerized transport of liquids, gasses, and ‘food and feed’ worldwide.
According to the International Tank Container Organisation, there are around 458,200 units in circulation, but not every tank container is suitable for every cargo. Also to be considered are the types of tank containers and which containers are suitable for specific cargoes of chemicals, gases, oils, and other liquid and solid bulk products. And according to co-founder Léon de Bruin, the market is vastly fragmented worldwide with 3,000 suppliers of tank containers and more than 10,000 companies on the demand side. TankContainerFinder makes it easier than ever for cargo and tank container owners to match by using their online platform, which already has close to 900 active users among 104 countries, for more efficiency and cost-savings. With a Global Fleet Connected rate of over 65 percent and nearly 800 inquiries for tank containers, the site is poised to be the main industry source to find tank containers.
Founders: Léon de Bruin, Arthur Van der Hoeven
Headquarters: Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Learn more about Tank Container Finder:
- “Logistics Startup of the Month: TankContainerFinder” – Transmetrics Blog
- “Watch: Rotterdam Tech Start-up Takes Off” – Port Technology
Those in the maritime shipping industry know all too well the pains of manual performance analysis processes. They’re far too time-consuming, expensive, and limit work productivity. That’s why Nautilus Labs launched an automated vessel performance analysis solution that can reduce those manual work processes by leveraging machine learning-based analytics to better manage vessels and create a foundational database across fleets for predictive performance optimization.
The Nautilus platform helps operations teams realize efficiency by reducing voyage expenses and fuel costs; enables technical teams to automate performance analyses through machine learning to better predict vessel efficiency; and helps chartering teams market each ship more confidently based on its predictive vessel scoring. The cloud-based platform also allows crews to eliminate isolated work processes and use the same fleet information wherever they are operating. It can integrate data from any original equipment manufacturer, sensor or reporting tool to ensure global teams can collaborate in a single place and access the same insights. Nautilus Labs is definitely a startup to keep an eye on in the next few years!
Company: Nautilus Labs
Founders: Anthony DiMare, Brian O’Clair
Headquarters: New York City, USA
Learn more about Nautilus Labs:
- “Maritime Trends That Matter In 2018 by Nautilus Labs” – Hellenic Shipping News
- “Nautilus Labs: Data Analytics Platform for Unified Fleet Intelligence” – Ship-Technology
New York Shipping Exchange (NYSHEX)
With partnerships including Maersk Line, Hapag Lloyd and CMA CGM, the New York Shipping Exchange has been making big waves in the maritime industry since it launched in 2014. The innovative platform allows companies to compare carrier rates in one place and secure a contract with guaranteed space up to six months in advance, all while maintaining your booking process as is.
Currently, the negotiations on the contract market and the spot market’s closing period can take anywhere from 48 hours to a week. On NYSHEX’s digital platform, ocean carriers post specific offers, which can then be instantly accepted by a shipper, turning the negotiation process on its head.
Company: New York Shipping Exchange
Founders: Gordon Downes
Headquarters: New York City, USA
Learn more about NYSHEX:
- “Maersk Line Joins New York Shipping Exchange” – World Maritime News
- “The New York Shipping Exchange Steps up Its Game to Serve “Digitized” Logistics” – Supply Chain Management Review
Did you know that it often takes 60 emails and 20 phone calls just to send one container? With 90 percent of the world’s goods being shipped, it’s impossible to imagine just how much inefficiency exists in the maritime industry. That’s why Kontainers describe their business as an enterprise SaaS company white-labeling customer-facing platforms for forwarders and carriers all over the world.
Kontainers has built two products to digitize the shipping process, called Edge and Enterprise. Both are built on a multi-tenanted architecture which allows them to provide their own branded platforms to any freight forwarder or carrier around the globe and let companies book shipments in mere minutes. They’re also speeding up release and payments by giving clients the ability to show their own branded bill of lading tool where shippers can amend and share the document from within the platform. With partners like Maersk as well as 3 more top 20 global shipping brands jumping onboard, Kontainers looks like it has a bright future ahead.
Founders: Charles Lee, Graham Parker
Headquarters: London, UK
Learn more about Kontainers:
- “Kontainers challenges Flexport: In five years thousands of forwarders must be digital” – Shipping Watch
- “‘Shipping made easy’ as Kontainers unveils booking platform for forwarders” – The Load Star
Blockchain is a hotter topic than ever these days, and it’s been making an impact on every industry, including logistics. ShipChain, launched in 2016, intends on being at the forefront of this industry change. Imagine a fully integrated system across the entire supply chain, from the moment a shipment leaves the factory, to the final delivery on the customer’s doorstep; federated in trustless, transparent blockchain contracts: This is ShipChain’s goal.
The ShipChain platform unifies shipment tracking on the Ethereum blockchain, using a sidechain to track individual points across each contract. With this system, only the parties involved in the shipment itself have access to the data and tracking. This will give shippers more visibility across their supply chain and allow carriers to communicate with ease. While blockchain technology can be confusing for those unfamiliar with it, those in the logistics industry should get used to this term as more startups like ShipChain start emerging.
Founders: John Monarch
Headquarters: Los Angeles, USA
Learn more about ShipChain:
- “With John Monarch at the Helm, Shipchain Looks to Steer a New Course in Freight” – Ethereum World News
- “The “Internet of Shipping” Is Upon Us” – American Journal of Transportation
Intelligent Cargo Systems
In container shipping, keeping operational costs low while continuously improving vessel performance is key to survival. Intelligent Cargo Systems is a startup dedicated to optimizing port calls in every port, worldwide. The platform minimizes idle time on the berth, allowing the ships to sail slower, save fuel, and save money.
So how does it work? The software ensures real-time updates on port status and performance reporting for actionable insights. By accurately predicting cargo completion time in advance, companies can start reducing turnaround time in port and bunker consumption at sea. Ship operators are notified of this analytics via the Intelligent Cargo Systems dashboard, enabling them to make data-driven decisions to save money, time and the environment.
Company: Intelligent Cargo Systems (ex-CargoMate)
Founders: Chris Jones, Dennis Sandmark
Headquarters: London, UK
Learn more about CargoMate:
- “CargoMate Close Seed Investment Round” – MarineLink
- “CargoMate Announce Technology Pilot With Konecranes” – Hellenic Shipping News
Need a quick quote for your maritime shipment? Look no further than iContainers, the Spanish startup that is focused solely on coordinating logistics for standard services that do not involve refrigerated, hazardous or oversized goods – calling themselves the “Southwest Airlines of the shipping industry.”
The iContainers platform covers more than 250,000 shipping routes to 300 destinations around the globe and offers both FCL and LCL shipping options in order to fulfill a wider variety of orders for maritime shipments. The platform also offers instant quotes, full price transparency, and round-the-clock shipment tracking. What more could you need?
Founders: Carlos Hernandez, Iván Tintoré
Headquarters: Barcelona, Spain
Learn more about iContainers:
- “iContainers, Expedia for Transporting Freight Internationally, Raises $6.7 Million” – TechCrunch
- “10 Startups Making Ocean Container Shipping Easier” – Nanalyze
Businesses who have a small to medium cargo terminal may want to take a look at what Octopi has to offer. Built exclusively for smaller sized cargo terminals, Octopi is a modern, web-based Terminal Operating System (TOS) with all the features that expected from TOS, such as container inventory, gate processes, stripping & stuffing, electronic manifest uploads, yard planning, and more.
However, this is a TOS with a twist: Octopi has also added important features such as equipment management to help keep track of cranes and other equipment utilization. Using Octopi’s data dashboard, an executive team can quickly see what’s happening at a terminal in real-time. The cloud-based platform also uses Machine Learning to help detect anomalies when they arise. It’s everything a company needs from a traditional TOS, with all the benefits of modern technology!
Founders: Luc Castera
Headquarters: Miami, USA
Learn more about Octopi:
- “Feature: Why Port Terminals Must Invest in SaaS” – Port Technology
- “Octopi: A Fresh Take on Terminal Operating Software” – Maritime Logistics Professional
While many maritime logistics startups don’t offer carrier-neutral options for clients, Haven is a young company determined to remain a completely carrier-neutral third-party market that’s focused on connecting shippers and suppliers, meaning any company can book with the carriers of their choosing when they use Haven. Plus, they bring suppliers into the fold by offering a variety of options for businesses to integrate their suppliers into the system.
Haven also wants to help companies declutter their inboxes by offering clients a Message Center wherein they can better keep track of workflow communication and keep shipments as organized as possible. Additionally, the startup has other tools available, such as their own developed Haven Transport Management System, which offers clients a single place to automate workflows, communicate with team members about shipments and reduce supply chain volatility. From this TMS to their other offerings such as satellite shipment tracking and bill of lading auditing, Haven is ready to help companies run better shipments from start to finish.
Founders: Jeff Wehner, Matt Tillman, Renee DiResta
Headquarters: San Francisco, USA
Learn more about Haven:
- “Haven Inc. Announces Mitch Kristofferson as Managing Director to Lead Presence in Japan” – Markets Insider
- “Haven Pivots From Expedia-for-Logistics to TMS” – JOC.com
We would like to say special thanks to Startup Wharf for their “State of Maritime Startups and Scaleups” Infographics which served as one of the main sources for this list of the Best Maritime Logistics Startups.
Do you know any other outstanding Maritime Logistics Startups that did not make it to the article? Let us know in the comments!