UK shipping tech start-up CetoAI is moving to the next phase after completing a seed-funding round backed by marine insurers.

The company, based in Newcastle, north-east England, aims to use artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to spot vessel machinery breakdown risks earlier than conventional detection methods.

The £1.5m ($1.8m) financing was led by insurer Howden Ventures. Funding also came from another insurer, Chaucer Group, and Founders Factory, plus existing investors from Business Investors Group.

CetoAI said the deal marks a significant step for its growth ambitions as it targets shipping and insurance.

The company was founded in 2020 by marine engineer Tony Hildrew, who previously worked at ship repairer A&P, Nautical Management Services and brokerage West Nautical.

“Having the support and access to an unparalleled network, including ties to some of the largest shipowners and operators across the maritime sector, will help support our significant growth ambitions over the coming years,” Hildrew said.

“The strong relationships which our new investors formed throughout the raise and shared vision for new predictive analytics technologies in the space meant that the decision on where to take capital from was an easy one when we opened the round. We couldn’t be happier with how this fund raise went.”

Hildrew told TradeWinds the company is working with several owners, including a large container line and a big gas carrier company, but cannot yet disclose names.

CetoAI is also collaborating with Japanese class society ClassNK and some of the Japanese members of the Internet of Ships Open Platform, plus a company in the defence sector.

The UK’s Port of Tyne and Japanese insurer Tokio Marine Kiln are also involved.

CetoAI believes shipping is facing multiple challenges around reliability, decarbonisation and digitalisation.

It hopes to enable operators to reduce breakdowns and cut emissions with data-driven decisions.

Tom Hoad, head of Howden Ventures, added: “It was clear from the outset that CetoAI’s technology was born out of years of experience with commercial vessels.”

New alliance

Chaucer Group will now enter into a strategic partnership with CetoAI to accelerate innovation.

Its marine and innovation team will work closely with the start-up over the coming months, providing deep marine expertise as the company moves towards the delivery of a new insurance product.

James Irvine, head of marine global hull lines at Chaucer, said: “CetoAI are pushing the boundaries of data and analytics in the marine industry. Their unique technology enables not only risk response but true risk prevention and mitigation.”