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Tech startups can boost UK shipping market after Brexit

Increased connectivity and propositions based on tools such as AI and blockchain can provide opportunities to the shipping sector after Brexit, says report

Propositions based on technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) could provide a boost to the UK shipping market after the nation leaves the European Union, according to a report.

The shipping and maritime technology market is currently worth more than £80bn and is set to grow to be worth more than £224bn by 2030, according to the Trade 2.0 report by govtech venture firm Public, commissioned by Inmarsat. 

“Startups and investors should see the maritime sector as one of the greatest future market opportunities to develop over the next 10 years,” the report said, adding that in 2018, startups active in the sector received nearly $200m in global venture investment.

The report argued that established industry players need the innovation from nimble ventures active in the sector and vice-versa. It covers how technology-enabled propositions developed by startups could affect areas such as ship and port operations, ship management and services and trade facilitation.

Opportunities identified in the report include blockchain technology to enable automated customs processing, through processing and management of declarations and certificates of origin.

Cloud-based systems are also assisting digital transformation in shipping, in areas such as shipbroking transactions and freight forwarding, eliminating use of excessive physical documentation.

Augmented reality is another promising technology for shipping operators to improve fleet management, as well as use of drones to assist in inspections and internet of things (IoT) sensors to support areas such as maintenance.

For startup-driven innovation to work within shipping, however, more collaboration is required from corporate suppliers, ship operators and ventures. More crucially, connectivity needs to be improved at sea for digital transformation to be unleashed in the sector.

“There is no 4G network at sea, and much of the innovations we have seen in the past 10 years have not yet made it onto ships,” the report said.

“As the cost of transferring data between any two points on earth becomes negligible, we will see transformative technologies implemented on vessels around the world,” it added.

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