Insight | Trade 2.0


Trade 2.0: The critical role for maritime start-ups


Trade 2.0 marks the beginning of a fundamental transformation of the shipping industry. Increasing access to high-speed, lower cost bandwidth at sea is creating a route to market for innovators and investors alike to capitalise on the true benefits of digitalisation at sea. With the market value of the global ShipTech (shipping and maritime technology) market predicted to grow from $100b dollars to a staggering $278b by 2030, never before has the sector had access to the power of big data, blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing. At a time when ship owners are faced with tightening regulations in safety and emissions, and pressure to cut costs, emerging technology is set to change every element of the industry’s operating model over the next three decades.

Written by venture firm UK GovTech and research house PUBLIC, in association with Startup Wharf and Thetius, ‘Trade 2.0’ is a study into the role of maritime start-ups and impact of digitalisation to the shipping and offshore sectors between 2020 and 2030. This landmark study commissioned by Inmarsat is based on direct input from 100 global start-ups and two years of tracking 240 active start-ups by the authors’ database of maritime innovation.

Report highlights

Ship operations

Remote monitoring and autonomous operation is set to change how ships are currently operated. Operational decision support and potentially even decision making is moving away from the ships and into shore side monitoring centres. As well as navigation, technology is expected to have a major impact on how the engine rooms of ships are managed, moving away from reactive and scheduled maintenance to a data-driven approach where maintenance decisions are made using data fed from Internet of Things (IoT) sensors.

Port operations

In port, collaborative management, decision making and scheduling platforms are beginning to see more widespread adoption, with some of the more advanced systems deploying artificial intelligence to aid decision making and solve port call optimisation problems. Blockchain technology is becoming viable as a way of processing and managing customs declarations and certificates of origin, paving the way for smart transactions and automated customs processing.

Ship management and services

Augmented and mixed reality now make it possible for fleet management teams and specialist engineers ashore to assist engineers at sea with complex tasks that require specialist skills. This often cuts down on cost and job completion time. Drones are also growing in popularity both as an inspection tool for service providers like class societies and as a delivery mechanism for ships agents to transport supplies out to ships.

Trade facilitation

Cloud computing is transforming trade facilitation with a number of start-ups enabling shipbroking transactions and freight forwarding fully online. Further, blockchain technology is making the digitalisation of some traditional trade documents possible. Blockchain-based bills of lading and insurance transactions are becoming a reality as well as permission-based trade platforms that make trade data accessible to any party that needs it.


Connectivity is enabling better sustainability, with more data available to create better models and simulations to aid decisions like weather routing, or even efficiency improvements to a ship’s hull. Alternative propulsion systems like sails are making use of weather data and autonomous technology to create solutions that can be deployed at sea with minimal retraining required for the crew.