Rotterdam reiterates itself as a city that can make things happen, with 29 contracts facilitated by the global accelerator from the Port of Rotterdam during the 4th edition of its program.


A record 29 contracts have been signed in total by the 2019 cohort of PortXL – the world’s 1st port & maritime accelerator. Sixteen companies formed the cohort, five start-ups and eleven scale-ups. Among the corporates that entered in a co-operation with the cohort are partners familiar to the PortXL environment, such as Van Oord, Vopak and the Port of Rotterdam Authority. In their first year of partnership with PortXL, Mammoet and Royal IHC also put pen on paper on a number of contracts.

Revolutionizing crane operations from down under

The largest contract signed – notably the largest to-date in four years of the PortXL program – was by Australian scale-up Verton with a corporate consortium composed by Van Oord, Mammoet and Vestas. Together, they will develop a way to shorten the installation cycle times for wind turbines and make it safer for operators. Verton’s R-series is the world’s first remote-controlled electromagnetic load management systems, making crane operations considerably safer and about 25% faster. Their remote rotating device uses gyroscopic modules to rotate a suspended load. A new concept has been developed in which this unit is integrated into a lifting yoke for installing wind turbine blades. More information:


Shakedown 2019

The term “shakedown” refers to the test of a new vehicle, whether it be car or ship. For PortXL and its cohort, the meaning carries significant emotional weight – it is the coronation of a three-month long program full of action, sweat, intense schedules and hard work. The sixteen program participants of this year could proudly hold their head high as they pitched their solutions in front of hundreds of members of the wide port ecosystem and showcased their successes to roaring applause.


Powerful energy transition

Moving away from fossil fuels is a global initiative, but perhaps the Netherlands is one of the most aware countries on the issue, with rising sea levels putting the nation at high risk. Among the 2019 cohort, there are plenty of innovators with renewable energy solutions to assist with the inevitable energy transition.

US start-up Flower Turbines has created a small wind turbine that people can live next to due to its quiet nature. The Port of Rotterdam, Mammoet and the municipality of Hellevoetsluis have already embraced the flower revolution. More information:

Israeli start-up Eco Wave Power has been turning heads with their wave energy converters, already connected to the grid in Gibraltar, and has collected strong LoIs from Ports of Rotterdam & Taranto, as well as Vopak. More information:

On the topic of Hydrogen there are two companies, US start-up sHYp’s solution creates green hydrogen from water at little to no cost, attracting the interest of Vopak; while German scale-up Keyou has developed a fast and efficient way to modify a fossil fuel engine to one that is powered by hydrogen. The Munich-based company has caught Mammoet’s eye. More information:

Accident prevention through behaviour monitoring

Indian start-up BigYellowFish integrates the human element in safety matters with their Yellowbox platform, using gamification and behavioural psychology to ensure the crew’s stress levels are well documented. Ampelmann has signed a contract to implement the platform in their operations. More information:

Innovative Infrastructure Insights

New technologies have allowed more insights into structural and soil integrity, helping avoid disasters that might cause large loss of life.

Planys Tech has a fleet of ROVs at their disposal to conduct underwater inspections accurately and without endangering any divers. The Indian team’s enthusiasm and expertise has led to three successful pilots with Vopak, Port & City of Rotterdam. More information:

The Dutch trio of Richtlijn Geodesie, Sensar and Semiotic Labs all provide deep insights via different solutions. Richtlijn Geodesie utilize sensors via their portable “Defocube” to monitor structures and have landed pilot contracts with Boskalis and the Port of Rotterdam. More information:

Sensar utilize satellites to provide with millimetric precision both current and past data to detect trends in ground shifts, pointing out which soil needs reinforcement. The Port of Rotterdam and Vopak have opted to employ their services. More information:

Semiotic Labs has a machine monitoring system that detects any upcoming issues, giving ample warning to the repair crew that there is trouble brewing among the gears. Vopak, City of Rotterdam and Royal IHC have all signed contracts with them. More information:


Insights into corporate innovation

For its fourth anniversary, PortXL fittingly started off its Shakedown event by showcasing the port in 4D – four dimensions to introduce this year’s theme: the four elements. Four of the thirteen PortXL corporate partners each held a plenary session tied to one of the four elements, speaking about innovation in their fields.

The City of Rotterdam dove into the Water element, fully embracing the theme with a keynote speech by Corjan Gebraad about water innovation within the city and how they are planning to adapt to climate changes.

Van Oord candidly spoke about the way the Wind industry can have its moments of strong gales and how even the trickiest wind can mean smooth sailing for innovators willing to grasp the opportunities that arise.

The Port of Rotterdam warmly engulfed the audience with the description of their efforts towards making Rotterdam the smartest port and the Fiery passion of the innovators involved.

Last, but not least, Earth was covered by Boskalis, who shared their experiences in building with Mother Nature, making beneficial use of soft sediments for the benefit of the ecosystem.

Head-spinning numbers

The 2019 cohort significantly broke the PortXL record by signing 29 contracts. The previous best was at 17. Here are again the 5 start-ups and 11 scale-ups composing the cohort:

BigYellowFish, Eco Wave Power, Flower Turbines, sHYp, Toolbot Robotics, andSafety/Werktools, Buffalo Automation, Forward Water, Keyou, Ladar Ltd., Planys Technologies, Railapp, Richtlijn Geodesie, Semiotic Labs, Sensar and Verton!

All pictures courtesy of Marc Nolte –