Mar 18, 2022 - Economy

Smart shipping startup Nautilus Labs raises $34M led by Microsoft

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The world's second-oldest profession — overseas shipping — is getting smarter: Nautilus Labs raised $34 million in a Series B driven to support its AI platform for the shipping industry.

Why it matters: Nautilus' tool promises to slash shippers' costs by reducing fuel consumption, improving planning — and, not least, lowering emissions.

Details: The round was led by both M12 — Microsoft's venture fund — and the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, marking the first time the two funds have co-invested.

  • Other investors included NSS Advisors, Systemiq Capital, Root Ventures, Quiet Capital, TMV, and Amplifier.

What's happening: The "Voyage Optimization" platform enables shipping companies and ports to better coordinate, and ship operators to adjust their plans based on weather, port congestion, and other factors.

  • Ships tend to cross the seas at the fastest optimal pace so even when "slow steaming" at low speed to save fuel, they often end up loitering at port until a berth opens.
  • Those normal delays have been exacerbated by port constraints that have caused huge lines at ports around the world and shippers trying to take advantage of sky-high cargo prices.

By the numbers: Ocean-going ships account for 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

  • These emissions and air pollution have spiked — in places such as the Port of Los Angeles, air pollution has as much as doubled — as ships have reportedly raced 22% faster to reach port, only to idle for days off the coast.
  • Nautilus says that its platform can help shippers cut their fuel consumption by nearly a third — roughly $50 billion in fuel, or 1% of emissions.

What they're saying: "We’ve seen upward of 12% fuel reduction just by giving people better predicted confidence on how to manage a voyage," CEO Matt Heider tells Axios. "Those vessels didn’t need to be there, because there’s nothing to do but wait. And I can guarantee you that every single ship that was there waiting at anchor could have gone just as slow."

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