Think like a tugboat

For five years now, PortXL has been committed to giving innovative (young) entrepreneurs a foothold in the maritime business world. In this way, we are working together to create a strong, future-proof port. And just now, in this time of crisis, we need to step up our efforts. That is why PortXL is coming up with a new approach, Match by PortXL. MATCH by PortXL’s mission is simple: we want to realise 100 innovative projects in one year. How do we do this? By connecting companies and entrepreneurs, in other words: connecting ships with tugboats that accompany the large ship safely to the port. The cooperation between ship and tugboat is important to achieve the goal, one simply cannot do without the other. That is why we appeal to all businesses in the port of Rotterdam: think like a tugboat!

The port of Rotterdam is still the largest port in Europe and an indispensable player on the world market. But we are currently living in a difficult time. COVID-19 still plays a major role and that creates an uncertain market. The challenges are enormous. If we want to keep our port future-proof, we have to start working now (and permanently). The port not only needs to become cleaner and more sustainable, but also, and above all, smarter. To remain strong and competitive, we must innovate; be open to new developments in automation and digitisation and dare to seize opportunities. Not alone, but with each other, working together to achieve the best results. After all, the big ship cannot reach the port safely without tugboats.


Innovation is now a much-heard and popular word in the maritime sector. Every company does ‘something’ with it, some more than others. In practice, we at PortXL see that innovation is often also considered exciting. But the fact is: we can no longer ignore it. It is no longer a choice or a nice ‘extra’; it is a necessity if we want to continue to exist together as a port, and as a port business sector. That is why PortXL set up MATCH by PortXL.

What is MATCH?

Think like a tugboat, that is the core of MATCH. Taking small steps in the right direction together with others. Together we will make the port of Rotterdam even stronger and you will also make steps towards the future as a company. Because we have to conclude that budgets for research and development have been frozen and many innovation projects have come to a standstill. This is a hard blow for many innovative entrepreneurs, but ultimately also for the companies in the port; after all, a great deal of potential remains unused. And it is precisely when better times come, that we, as a port, need to get back on our feet. How beautiful and promising is it, then, if the companies in the port do this together with innovative (young) entrepreneurs?


MATCH started in September 2020 with a test group of 30 companies from the port. Our ambition is high! In 12 months we want to:

  • Serve 200 companies (our ‘ships’)
  • Cope with 400 innovation challenges
  • Match 2000 start-up/scale-up (our ‘tugs’)
  • Create 100 innovative projects

100 innovative projects… Is that a lot? Yes, that’s a lot, but not unfeasible, because PortXL removes as many barriers as possible. In short, our step-by-step plan:

  • Every company (the ‘ship’) from the port can digitally contribute its innovation challenge to PortXL. Think of alternative fuels, predicting maintenance or optimising document flows in the organisation.
  • We then consult our global network of more than 4,000 entrepreneurs (our ‘tugboats’), and look for solutions appropriate to the company’s needs.
  • PortXL then selects five to ten solutions and presents these in a report to the
    applicant. These are not lengthy analyses, but short, concise reports. Ten solutions means ten A4s.
  • If you, as an applicant, see an interesting solution, PortXL provides the introduction, including handles for a possible collaboration. The project can start and ship and tugboat are on course!
  • PortXL offers the companies that start a project three months of digital support.

PortXL: who we are

Since 2015, PortXL has been committed to supporting the port business community with innovation. We help innovative entrepreneurs and start-ups to gain a foothold in companies that want to improve their processes. For start-ups, finding the right entrances to companies, waiting for decision-making, starting projects, etc., is a time-consuming process. Companies, in turn, also benefit from the quick start of an innovative project, so that their work can be carried out more efficiently and cost-effectively. Win-win!

PortXL: how we work

With a worldwide network of more than 4000 innovative entrepreneurs, PortXL has a solution for almost every question. Companies approach us with a problem or issue, we look for solutions after which we bring them into contact with our network. We regularly work together with companies such as the Port of Rotterdam Authority, Shell, Vopak and Van Oord and have already concluded more than 200 paid contracts.

Scale-up VRT Finland signing with Boskalis – together with TNO and Rijkswaterstaat -at Selection Days after already convincing them during the scouting process – fastest PortXL contract signing ever

PortXL and start-ups

PortXL is critical of start-ups that join our network. We only work with completed innovations. Products must be past the test phase and ‘ready’, and only tailored to a client’s specific cases.

Work together with one of our tugboats!

The potential in the port of Rotterdam is enormous. Many companies in the city and port do not yet have an innovation budget and only carry out a project on an ad hoc basis. This is the opportunity for your company to start thinking about the deployment of a tugboat. Because it’s not just about the future of the port of Rotterdam, it’s also about the future of your company. So are you one of those ships that together want to make the tugboats ready for the port for the future?

Then go to or send an e-mail to!