Danish vessel optimisation platform ZeroNorth believes the digital shipping space will likely see more consolidation as it matures.

The company, backed by heavyweights Maersk, Cargill and PSG Equity, has this week clinched the takeover of Norway’s Prosmar Bunkering.

Chief executive Soren Meyer told TradeWinds: “In the next few years, we believe that it is likely that there will be more consolidation not only in optimisation, but also within shipping’s digitalisation sector more broadly.”

He explained that the digital ecosystem has expanded very quickly in the past few years.

“We believe we’ll see smaller companies being very focused, with the majority of the market shares being concentrated on a few big companies who deliver a solution across the value chain. Those types of firms have the ability to unlock scale through merger and acquisitions (M&A) activity,” the CEO said.

But he warned: “We mustn’t lose the user perspective when talking about potential market consolidation.”

“Fundamentally, what users want is a simple and straightforward offering that they can understand and has minimal ‘barriers to entry’,” Meyer said.

ZeroNorth’s approach is to break down silos and build a platform that has a full range of services, promoting information flow to multiple stakeholders and enabling smart use of data to ensure optimisation for the industry as a whole, the CEO added.

“ZeroNorth continues to act in line with its ambitious growth strategy. Indeed, the last year has seen us take several steps aligned to these ambitions,” Meyer said.

The company has also bought ClearLynx so far in 2022, allowing its bunker market service to be “propelled” to clients.

A hunt for the right partner

"It would not be appropriate to comment on any specific further M&A activity at this time," Meyer said.

“However, as we work to achieve our goal of making global trade green, we are continually exploring the right strategic partners that will enable us to deliver a better service for our users,” he added.

In September, Jochem Donkers, a maritime technology specialist at Skysail Advisors, told TradeWinds there are so many optimisation services “that I stopped counting them.”

Observers argue the crowded space is ripe for consolidation to bring scale, or in need of harmonisation to help shipowners and operators make sense of the offerings.

Donkers expects to see a combination of consolidation among vessel optimisation platforms and rapid scaling up of the stronger names.

He had tipped ZeroNorth as a candidate to take that second route.

The latest deal involves Prosmar’s Bunker Dashboard solution and Bunker Pricer module, which will operate under the name Prosmar Bunkering.

Prosmar’s two other services, Prosmar Risk and Prosmar Price Matrix, which offer freight risk management services, are not included in the transaction.