More than 30 martech startups from around the world are displaying their solutions and platforms at this year’s Posidonia Exhibition currently being held at Athens’ Metropolitan Expo Centre till Friday.
And the founders and CEOs of a few of them shared their views and opinions at this morning’s well-attended TradeWinds Shipowners Forum which opened the packed Posidonia conference agenda with some insightful and thought-provoking discussions on the burning issues of decarbonisation and digitisation of the shipping industry.
Introducing the panel, Julian Bray, Editor-in-Chief of popular trade magazine Tradewinds, said: “Digital maritime technology is growing at a rapid pace amid an increasing need for solutions to a new set of problems, including decarbonisation and an unprecedented supply chain crunch.”
During the discussion, speakers were unanimous in the power of digital solutions and how they can bring shipping industry silos down and act as a catalyst for change and as an enabler for more informed decision-making by fleet owners and operators.
Eleni Polychronopoulou, President of METIS CyberTechnology, which specialises in marine information intelligence solutions to improve performance, optimize fuel oil consumption and reduce emissions, said: “We analyse the past, acquire the knowledge, make sense of the data and then help shipowners make better and more accurate predictions about what to do in the future. The more data we have and analyse, the more accurate your predictions for the future will be, and the more informed and fact-based your discussions with regulators and policy makes can be.”
Jesper Bo Hansen, Chief Revenue Officer of Zero North, which a few days ago raised US$50 million Series B round said: “We are creating technologies that can make shipping greener and thus help the environment and future generations prosper. At the end of the day, data will win, it’s just a matter of time how one decides to embrace it and leverage it. It’s important to be able to have access to correct data and the understanding of what that data can do for you.”
And while the global martech sector witnessed some record fundraising last year, entrepreneurs remain sceptical about their ability to maintain the momentum, especially as VC capital is showing some reluctance to invest in the face of uncertainty surrounding long-term regulation and policy-making.
To that point, Ioannis Martinos, who left his position as co-chief executive of Thenamaris, the Greek shipping company founded by his family, to venture out on his own as the CEO of The Signal Group, said: “Policy makers should be more decisive. Shipowners need clarity, they are not chemists. Scientists and policy makers need to guide them and tell them which direction they should move toward.”
Birgit Liodden, CEO of Ocean Opportunity Lab is a fan of private family business that believe in investing funds in digital solutions: “I believe that family businesses and industrial investors are a better fit for maritime tech innovators and they should be teaming up with entrepreneurs to help drive the sector forward, faster.”
However, this raises the issue of trust and transparency in data sharing as Martinos put it: “Democratisation of data won’t happen for a variety of reasons. Data owners should be sharing the right data with the right stakeholders at the right time and not for the sake of perceived transparency.”
The panel also discussed the prospects of the Greek martech ecosystem and agreed that it is ideally situated to take a leading role in the growth of the sector globally.
Polychronopoulou added: “Greece is the world’s biggest shipping power. Within a radius of 30Kms between Piraeus and the Athens Riviera sit decision-makers about the operations of 5,000 vessels. That’s a lot of power concentrated in a small country which has neither shipbuilding ability nor equipment making facilities. But what it has in abundance is the talent of young Greek entrepreneurs and the might of the Greek shipping community. Each side needs the other, we need the data and the know-how, and they need our software and digital solutions to help them grow achieve their targets.”
Regulatory and social pressures to reduce carbon efficiencies are driving owner and operator interest in the accelerated adoption of new technologies that improve competitiveness and fuel efficiencies.
Spyros Karampampas, Member of the Board, Maritime Sector at the Association of Innovative Application Companies (SEKE), said: “The speeches and remarks of the Greek Prime Minister, the President of the UGS and the EU Commissioner for Transportation during the official opening ceremony of Posidonia 2022, made it abundantly clear that the shipping industry must focus on digitisation and new innovative technologies for decarbonisation and optimisation purposes. The message was loud and clear, and it was well received. As a global leading power in shipping, Greece offers a fertile ground for tech companies to innovate, provide solutions to problems and grow their businesses at the same time.”
It’s worth noting that the first tech startup from Greece to be invested by one of the world’s biggest VCs, General Catalyst of the US, was a maritime recruitment platform with an undisclosed investment which was finalised last year. Its current clients include one of the world’s top 100 shipping companies.
Jesper Bo Hansen added: “A couple of years ago people were not even talking about optimisation of fleet operations, but with the focus on the pending regulations and consumer pressure, and with industry as it is today, shipping businesses cannot remain the same and people cannot discount what data and digitisation can bring to the industry.
“The data landscape has matured, so we know where the vessel, is how much fuel can consume and the optimal speed of the vessel. If shipping businesses do not embrace this knowledge and this data, they are losing out on money every day they sail. In addition to making enormous savings, they can also earn immediate emission reductions through optimisation as part of the decarbonisation journey.”
Posidonia 2022 is organised under the auspices of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs & Insular Policy, the Union of Greek Shipowners and the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping and with the support of the Municipality of Piraeus and the Greek Shipping Co-operation Committee.