Guest Column

The maritime industry has the potential to be the flagship of a culture switch needed to tackle climate change.

For example, the 16 largest vessels in the world generate as many sulphur emissions as all the cars on Earth. However, the current efforts in and around the port ecosystem tend to be limited to complying with regulations – the Paris Accords, IMO 2020 – but never looking beyond that. Disengaging the brakes would lead to a cleaner, greener world, but the industry is understandably cautious about making large investments in unclear technologies, as their profits might take a dive.

As PortXL director, I am fond of saying that our goal is to positively impact the economy and the ecology of the port ecosystem. Each year we accelerate startups and scaleups through an intense three-month program with the goal of connecting them with corporates and facilitating the signing of paid pilot contracts. We believe that this cooperation allows big corporates to start small and scale up the innovative solution if it proves to be successful. While it is a small step for corporates, it is a big step for the planet, because it kickstarts the innovation process, which can have excellent results from an environmental perspective. From the corporate perspective, a small investment carries less financial risk than a large, immediate step – which often scares them off from moving towards sustainability. Moreover, this means that the step is taken now and not later, after regulations come into effect and so on. We need to make an impact now because tomorrow might be already too late!

At PortXL we drive innovation in maritime precisely by easing the process of making business between start-ups and corporates. We refer to our accelerated companies as ‘Alumni’ and they are our pride and joy: 95 per cent of them are still in business and 25 per cent have scaled up and are on the fast track to success. Together, the 50 Alumni since 2015 have signed more than 100 paid contracts with corporates, and the number keeps rising steadily! To provide some examples, Spaniards Toolbot Robotics are focused on last mile dredging through the usage of a nimble drone; Americans sHYp are aiming to support the energy transition with cheap hydrogen out of ship ballast water; Israelis ECOncrete have scrambled the usual concrete formula and created an eco-friendly concrete – it allows marine flora and fauna to grow and thrive on it. Those are only a few pages, there is an entire book continuously being written at PortXL!

Carolien Vat-Sandee

Director & Co-Founder, PortXL