The shipping industry is now changing, largely due to increased digitalization. However, many shipping companies do not have the necessary competence, tools, and sometimes understanding of the implications of digitalization, the Global Maritime Forum notes.


In order to detect the level of digitalization in shipping and how it can affect it, Rainmaking launched a start-up-corporate impact programme, called Trade & Transport Impact. Participants talked about the maritime industry’s digitalization, and how can start-ups help.

Answering on why they chose to work with start-ups, the three corporate partners of the programme said that big corporations need to be stable, so they are slow. For this reason, they lack the resources needed to be on the frontline of innovation.

This is where start-ups join. With a maritime backround, their founders may have worked for big maritime companies in the past, but are now exploring ways to work with a much smaller team. This gives them the ability to find solutions quickly and in return, corporate partners can offer them the size, sales capabilities, and market to understand the pain points of the industry.

What is more, start-ups can apply new technologies on various problems, thus helping maritime companies understand how it could be applied to theirs. For example, the Global Maritime Issues Monitor 2018 shows  that maritime leaders do not seem to think that Artificial Intelligence will play a major role in the industry in the near future. The interesting fact is that, more than half of the technological solutions that the start-ups in Hamburg had suggested included some form of Artificial Intelligence.

Nonetheless, finding a perfect match between a company’s needs and a start-up’s proposed solution can be difficult and sometimes not enough for a successful collaboration.

A major obstacle is the difficult task of aligning expectations. For this to be possible, both parties must clearly understand what they can offer, and what they require. On the other hand, open-ended conversations and vague propositions can raise difficulties in creating a concrete partnership.

Another potential problem is the pace of corporate innovation. Companies must include all relevant divisions in the discussions, which could slow down the process for start-ups. The latter need to understand that big companies must be more risk-averse than them, the Global Maritime Forum mentioned. In order for companies though to speed up the process, they should be committed to explore the collaboration from the start.

Finally, when asked about how far is the maritime industry in this educational task, the vast majority answered that the industry is ready for change. However, many companies are not sure how to proceed.