Mersey Maritime - A driving force for the maritime industry on merseysideMersey Maritime - A driving force for the maritime industry on merseyside

How innovative start-ups can transform the Mersey maritime sector

By Mersey Maritime


Maritime is a sector where ‘tradition’ is a word used often but it is increasingly entrepreneurial and innovative start-up firms that are driving the sector forward.

Around two dozen Mersey Maritime members gathered at the Maritime Hub in Birkenhead to learn how more could be done to bring more ‘disruptive innovators’ into the industry.

Fresh thinking

The Port XL event looked in detail at how new technology and fresh thinking from start-up firms can transform the way maritime operations are run.

Speaking at the seminar were two experts on the subject:

  • Jorn Douwstra of Rotterdam Partners, a business that does the same type of work as Invest Liverpool in terms of attracting and aiding businesses who want to set up operations at the Dutch port.
  • Mare Straetmans, managing director of Port XL, a global entrepreneurship hub for innovation from the maritime, logistics and energy sectors.

Those present heard how the average age of entrepreneurs starting up maritime business was 40. They often have a wealth of experience and also an open-minded approach to new technology and ideas.

Ship mooring

One example discussed was the methods used for mooring ships. Vessels have changed and developed so much over the years and cost vast amounts of money, yet most ports still use a ‘rope & bullet’ for mooring, which can take up to an hour.

Start-ups have been looking into better ways to do this, such as magnetic mooring, shore tension and vacuum mooring, all of which offer faster, safer ways to moor ships. Larger corporations have yet to spot this opportunity.

Members at the seminar also learned about Port XL’s three core activities:

  • Scouting – searching for new innovative start-ups for their programme
  • Matching – matching successful start-ups with corporations
  • Accelerating – mentors, corporations and coaches help start-ups continue to develop their idea and bring it into fruition

It sees itself as bridging the gap between start-ups and larger corporations and it was stressed its work is not about attracting start-ups to Rotterdam – it wants to implement this globally and are looking at how they expand the programme to cover more areas.

Invaluable insight

Chris Shirling-Rooke, chief executive of Mersey Maritime, said: “Maritime is built on great traditions and the sector also has to embrace new ideas and technology if it is to remain competitive.

“At the event we discussed the Port XL way of encouraging innovation, whether something similar could be applied to Liverpool in future and how it may be possible to convince larger corporations to support and work with start-ups.

“This was an invaluable insight for our members into the possibilities for growth and innovation in the Liverpool city region.”

Tony McDonough

Consultant at Liverpool Business News –

Mobile: 07931 964948

Twitter: tonymc39

About maritime
Mersey Maritime is the representative body for the Maritime Sector and related industry sectors operating across the Liverpool City Region. We work with businesses of all sizes and in all locations to develop strong, market-responsive supply chains and promote Liverpool’s maritime industry as a world class Centre of Excellence.


Mersey Maritime is one of Europe’s most successful maritime cluster organisations, representing the interests of over 1700 Maritime, Logistics and Energy businesses on Merseyside and beyond.

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How innovative start-ups can transform the Mersey maritime sector