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Start-up growth ‘probably won’t be sustainable’

Technology providers ‘grossly oversell’ their products’ potential to cut fuel and many will be consolidated, says tech founder Richard Buckley

Many of the start-ups selling vessel data and efficiency products will not survive and their products seldom live up to advertising

TECH firms “grossly oversell” their potential benefits and rapid recent growth in the sector cannot last.

Richard Buckley, chief executive of tech firm 90 Percent of Everything, said there was too little focus on how new technologies would be put into practice, which lessened their benefits.

“I think as technology providers — and I’m one, so I hold my hand up — I think we grossly oversell the promise of how our role will help decarbonisation, and I think we need to be very careful on that,” he told a Lloyd’s List webinar.

Mr Buckley said he tracked more than 500 maritime start-ups looking at problems such as voyage routing and optimisation. But there was too little talk of how seafarers would use such technology in practice.

He cited one customer as saying, “Unless it ends up on the Ecdis and what’s navigated by the vessel, what you’re showing is a very pretty line on the page.”

Mr Buckley said the growth in start-ups “probably won’t be sustainable” but the benefit was in people thinking differently about how to solve maritime problems.

“Whilst many of them perhaps will be consolidated or acquired, I think that’s a really interesting prospect for what’s facing maritime right now. We need to think about how these technologies are actually going to be utilised and implemented so they deliver some of the benefits and savings they promise.”

Ships produced lots of data but operators often failed to bring it together in a way that made it useful, he said. Companies lacked enough sensors to collect data, or the means to bring it ashore, with Automatic Identification System reporting still the lowest common denominator.

Shipping had to share data “for the greater good of the industry”, he said, adding that anonymising data from different companies to set benchmarks could help.

Njord managing director Frederik Pind said clearer short-term regulations and higher fuel prices had pushed companies to work on efficiency gains, and made investments more attractive.

Some owners had “basically just decided now’s the right time to improve on their ESG goals and their efforts”, he said. “There’s a value element that’s being introduced that we didn’t see a couple years ago.”

Elpi Petraki, operations, chartering and business development manager at Enea Management, said recent strong markets meant ships discouraged owners from drydocking ships and missing out on high rates.

But the strong markets at least meant they had money to spend on efficiency tech, she said.

WinGD product digital and portfolio strategy senior manager Luca Sala said combining different efficiency products could multiply the fuel efficiencies of each.

But he said smaller companies lacked the size and expertise to analyse the huge amounts of data their ships generated.


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