Data Management

Shipping data aggregator Xeneta raises $80 million, plans to explore reservoir of data

Data analysis is about to become even more essential to the shipping industry.
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Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

Stay in your lane? Not in the shipping industry.

Xeneta, a shipping data aggregator, announced on September 13 that it had raised $80 million in a round of funding, cash that the company intends to use to build out existing datasets and grow its customer base.

The company takes information from cargo owners and shipping companies on rates and gives customers an average from which they can negotiate. It’s part of what company CEO Patrik Berglund told TechCrunch is a necessary step forward in how the shipping industry uses data: “Whether it’s a new digital freight forwarder, or a legacy player, they are all in need of better data to run their businesses more efficiently.”

More than meets the eye. Xeneta is sitting on 300 million data points from hundreds of the world’s largest shipping companies, which makes for $40 billion in value on the site as it is.

But the actual value of what the company has is far higher—between $600 billion and $900 billion seasonally, Berglund told TechCrunch—they just need to figure out how to use all of it.

Xeneta’s chief marketing officer, Katherine Barrios, told IT Brew that the company is sitting on a huge reservoir of data, all of it gleaned from rate sheets. Figuring out what to do with that information—how to deploy it—is the company’s next challenge.

“In the rate sheets that we collect from our customers, we’re just extracting the rate component,” Barrios said. “But we get a lot of other stuff that we’re not using yet. We’re looking at, how else can we create more intelligence?”

Make it rain. According to Julie Pullen, a climate scientist specializing in maritime technology, the potential for digital technology to help the shipping business is hard to overstate. She pointed to the power of data feeds that measure ocean bottom topography as an example—the distribution of that information “allows mariners to make decisions about how they route into the harbor, the timing of how they go into the harbor, and it also allows, from security standpoint, the ability to better understand the location and timing and potential for certain threats in that environment.”

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Cutting costs is a priority for operators, especially now that cargo owners have a tool like Xeneta to help negotiate rates. Data analytics can help solve problems related to fuel and speed, allowing for a crowdsourced approach to travel times and reduction of port turnaround.

Any angle on reducing costs has to be taken into consideration. One possibility is to move to more automated systems, said Beau Berthelot, vice president of business development and director of government affairs for Maritime Partners. Autonomous ships would reduce crew costs and, assuming that human error is to blame for most mishaps, potentially reduce accidents.

“There’s a lot of stuff that would impact the economics around the vessel,” Berthelot told IT Brew. “Where is it? Where does it need to be? What’s it been carrying? What do I want it to carry?”

And once applied, data analytics can help solve any number of shipping industry issues, said Rick Watson, professor and chair for internet strategy at the University of Georgia business school.

“This is an industry where there’s tension between capital investment, such as a large ship, like a container ship, that might cost you $600 million, and you’re trying to get a good return on that,” Watson said.—EH

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Top insights for IT pros

From cybersecurity and big data to software development and gaming, IT Brew delivers the latest news and analysis of trends shaping the IT industry, like only The Brew can.