Since the launch of ZeroNorth in early 2020, the Denmark-based company has built on its expertise in vessel and routing optimisation through partnerships and acquisition. The purchase of the ClearLynx online bunker market platform adds another important string to ZeroNorth’s bow – market intelligence, data and analytics on the marine fuels supply chain.
As an optimisation platform, ZeroNorth is focused on breaking down the ‘silo’ mindset that exists across much of the shipping sector, which can block the information sharing that can drive vessel performance optimisation.
In an interview with Bunkerspot, the company’s CEO, Søren Meyer, highlighted what he calls the ‘bubble effect,’ where people work to optimise processes and achieve efficiencies (and thereby reap cost reductions) but where ‘they are limited to their own scope of work and don’t have access to data that goes on outside their bubbles.’
With the addition of ClearLynx to the ZeroNorth platform, customers who choose to have both services ‘now have an eco-system where we add to the understanding of where and how much the vessel has been bunkering, and what impact this has on vessel optimisation,’ he said.
Established within LQM Petroleum, ClearLynx was launched in 2014 and following Bunker Holding’s acquisition of LQM in 2015, it became a standalone business headed by Gerry Van Geyzel as CEO.
Following the deal announced this week, Van Geyzel becomes a strategic advisor to Meyer and a ‘sales ambassador’, while Tammi Ingannamorte, previously with LQM and then with ClearLynx up to 2020, when she left to set up her own venture, TW International Services, returns to ClearLynx as Vice President of Sales America.
Meyer also confirmed that the existing ClearLynx team will remain intact and work out of a new office in New York City and Javier Sierra, ZeroNorth’s current head of partnerships, will take on the role of General Manager of ClearLynx.
One of the industry frontrunners as an online bunker platform, Meyer says the ‘maturity and scale’ of the ClearLynx platform was attractive to ZeroNorth.
And, he adds, ‘It’s not just about what ClearLynx is adding to ZeroNorth, it is what ZeroNorth is adding to ClearLynx.
‘They have the data on who is deciding when and where to bunker, and how much, and is in close collaboration with bunker departments, but we have the data about where the vessel is going and what is the optimal way to go from A to B.
‘So they bring very sophisticated data on real time bunkering to our platform and we bring real time data on vessels.
The ClearLynx acquisition also delivers a US foothold for ZeroNorth. The company established an office in Piraeus last year, but the new deal marks a move beyond Europe and ‘is part of our expansion plans to keep growing as a global company,’ said Meyer.
ClearLynx will continue as a standalone platform serving its current clients and will be gradually integrated into ZeroNorth. As Meyer emphasises, the integration will not be a rushed process.
‘ClearLynx has grown 30% year on year and is a super stable, very good business. So, when you do a transaction like this it is very important not to come in and rock the boat – we need to learn from each other and it takes time.’
He continued: ‘The team will be fully integrated, but we will operate as standalone ClearLynx and ZeroNorth brands and then the technology integration will focus on making data flow between the businesses’ for customers who use both services.’
Established in early 2020, as a digital spin-off from Maersk Tankers, ZeroNorth rebranded the SimBunker software as Optimise. This software enables vessel owners and operators to cut bunker consumption by determining the optimal speed of each vessel using multiple data points, such as market rates and weather conditions.
The company has subsequently bolstered its optimisation offering through a partnership with Spire Maritime which gave access to its maritime AIS and weather data. In July 2021, ZeroNorth moved into the fuel optimisation market with the purchase of Copenhagen-based vessel performance specialist Propulsion Dynamics, which was the first company to offer full-scale digital twin ship performance through its CASPER service.
While the ClearLynx purchase brings a key bunker procurement and data analytics platform to the ZeroNorth portfolio, the company had already forged partnerships with providers of bunker data and Meyer also has a close understanding of the bunker market having worked for over nine years at OW Bunker. ZeroNorth announced last May that bunker supplier Monjasa would be providing bunker price indications and fuel availability data to the users of Optimise, and bunker price data from BunkerEx has also been integrated into the platform.
These relationships will continue, said Meyer. ‘They fit very nicely into each other, and I think the [ClearLynx] transaction will enable further collaboration throughout the supply chain.’
Maersk Tankers was an early-stage investor in ZeroNorth and in September 2020 Cargill also came onboard with financial input. It also committed its entire fleet to using the Optimise platform.
By August of 2020 six companies were using Optimise, across 300 vessels. At the beginning of 2022, Meyer says the vessel count has risen to 2,600. From an initial base of 30+ employees, the headcount at ZeroNorth has also grown to 104, factoring in the ClearLynx team.
At the outset, ZeroNorth’s focus was on tramp shipping, but Meyer says the ClearLynx acquisition could potentially broaden the company’s target market.
‘I think we will begin to move more into the liner side,’ he says. ‘We have been extremely focused on solving the most challenging side of the industry – tramp shipping, which never knows where it is going – but there is quite a lot of liner business already within ClearLynx and so it is natural for us to say we can look into expanding into the liner side.’
As a spin-off from Maersk Tankers and with investment from that company and Cargill, it is easy to forget that ZeroNorth is, essentially, a tech start-up.
As Meyer acknowledges, profitability is yet to come but the commitment from ZeroNorth’s investors ‘is very, very intense.’ Having said that, he says that ‘the runway is just going to increase.’
He suggests that the ZeroNorth employee roster could increase to 180-200 people this year, and revenue could also grow by 2.5-to 3 times.
‘We really are in a mode of rapidly continuing to scale; we are not slowing now,’ he says.
Moving on to shipping’s decarbonisation, last December, ZeroNorth debuted its Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) analysis and optimisation solution which sits within its Optimise software. Users will be able to access real-time monitoring of CII-related performance and simulate a vessel’s future CII rating. The optimisation solution will also enable ship operators to access recommended voyage routing options to improve or maintain a vessel’s CII rating.
Meyer explains: ‘A lot of people out there are talking about recording emissions but it doesn’t change emissions by reporting on them; our CII analytics takes it to the next level, so if I need to take a decision on where my vessel is going to bunker, or the speed it is going at, I can make simulate those decisions before I take them, and I know what the impact will be on the CII rating.’
Looking ahead, Meyer is certainly keeping an eye on the introduction of new fuels into the marine fuel pool, but he is keen to highlight the benefits that can be achieved by optimising the use of conventional bunker fuels.
‘Some 7-10% of optimisation is just sitting there to be captured,’ he says. ‘And if you capture those percentages now, that will make the transition to a green fuel more affordable.’
‘Our dedication for the next years will be to fuel a sustainable transition to new fuels,’ he explains.
In terms of ZeroNorth’s evolution, Meyer says it will look to set up an office in Singapore and from a product perspective, ‘we will keep a super strong focus on connecting the dots and adding to the platform’, as well as ‘investing very heavily into the sales side of our business in the upcoming year.’
After two years as a business, Meyer says the company is ‘developing exactly the way that we hoped it would develop.’
He acknowledges that ZeroNorth is lucky to have strong financial backing and he says the company will continue to look for new capital investment.
As for any ambition to seek an exchange listing for the business, Meyer will not be drawn. ‘I don’t think it’s possible to speculate on the future ownership of the company; right now, we need to make sure that we join the dots and give superior value for our customers.’