Five Autonomous Shipping Startups to Watch in 2019

Five autonomous shipping startups to watch

While most of the traditional maritime industry has been debating the pros, cons, morals and legalities of autonomous vessels, a number of technology startups around the world have been quietly working on building them. Here are five autonomous ship startups to watch in 2019.

Sea Machines Robotics

Sea Machines Robotics builds advanced autonomous technology for the marine and maritime sector and has already launched a product line of autonomous control and navigation systems for commercial boats and ships.

With experienced management from marine construction, salvage, offshore oil and gas, world-class automation engineers, and autonomy scientists; Sea Machines is one of the leading first-movers in this emerging space.

Funding: $12.3million, Series A.

Notable for: Working with Maersk on the development of an AI-powered decision support system for their new ice-class vessels.


Built on the premise that an autonomous vessel doesn’t mean an unmanned vessel, Shone retrofits ships with autonomous technologies to improve the safety, security and quality of life of the crew on board.

Shone’s proprietary detection algorithm is based on data gathered from the ship sensors AIS, radar and GPS and added cameras onboard. It analyses the surroundings of the ship and predicts the behaviour of other vessels in the vicinity. The system is active 24/7 with no downtime and works in every weather situation.

Funding: $4.2million, Seed.

Notable for: Entering a collaborative partnership with CMA-CGM to develop and test their decision support system on container ships.

Orca AI

Orca AI is building an intuitive, AI-based collision avoidance system to help the bridge team safely navigate congested waters.

By combining artificial intelligence with data generated from new vision sensors and existing sensors onboard the vessel, Orca AI hopes to reduce human error in collision avoidance to nill, making the world’s busy waterways and the ships that sail them safer.

Funding: $2.6million, Seed.

Notable for: An exclusive focus on reducing human error in congested waters.

Buffalo Automation

New York based Buffalo Automation is building autonomous control systems for ships, boats, ports, and waterways.

The startup’s offering includes computer systems for autonomous navigation, situational awareness, decision support, remote monitoring, data analytics and cloud-based fleet management platforms for ships.

Funding: $967,000, Seed.

Notable for: Auto-mate, its pithily named bridge wing sensor system for large vessels.

Ladar Ltd

Ladar builds light-based sensor technology for the maritime and offshore industry. Ladar detects, characterises, classifies and tracks various objects in real-time, from humans to ice floes, floating debris and oil spills. Due to its unique characteristics, the Ladar system is suitable for a wide variety of applications related to maritime security and safety, offshore operations, fishery, environmental monitoring, dredging and offshore wind farms.

Funding: $2.8million, Grant.

Notable for: Building the underlying hardware that will allow autonomous vessels to function.


Massterly claims to be the world’s first full-service autonomous shipping company. The business was set up to commercially operate maritime autonomous surface ships. Massterly will provide services for the entire value chain for autonomous ships; from vessel design and approval from relevant authorities, to control systems, logistics services, vessel operations, insurance and possible assistance on financing.

Funding: Unknown

Notable for: Being a joint venture between industry stalwarts Wilhelmsen and Kongsberg.

Want to learn more about the autonomous shipping market?

Maritime Autonomous Surface Ship Market - Thetius

Our Maritime Autonomous Surface Vessel Market Map details the market size, leading companies, and growth opportunities in the sector.

Find out more and access the report here.