2016_1 The self-service master

The self-service harbour

Marina Ahoy is looking into automatising harbours. With the help of Wärtsilä, this vision might come true even faster.


Think of how automation has changed airports. Most of us can check in without any help from airport staff. Now, take that thought a bit further to imagine an automated flight tower but for boats and ships, turning marinas into easy-to-manage businesses and making harbour operations smooth.

Thanks to Marina Ahoy, winner of Wärtsilä’s Marine Mastermind competition, this might be a reality in the not-so-distant future. 

Marina Ahoy, founded in Estonia less than a year ago, is looking into changing the marina business all at once with a solution that would make it possible to manage a harbour automatically around the clock.

“In a yacht marina, 15 minutes of man hours are spent on each visitor, and the load of paperwork accounts for about 30% of the harbour management’s time. Simple tasks like check-in and -out, together with booking and billing, requires a lot of attention from the visitors. And every harbour has their own way of working, making it even more difficult as you need to find out how things work,” says Hannes Koppel, CEO and one of the founders of Marina Ahoy. 

There has got to be a simpler way to do this, thought Marina Ahoy’s founders when they gathered together in the Estonian harbour town, Kuressaare island, for a harbour seminar last summer. One of the co-founders Relika Metsallik-Koppel immediately started sketching the first model of the e-services design. And a month later, Marina Ahoy was born during a Hackathon event in Tallinn, where the idea got great feedback. That’s fast action even in the start-up world.

So what does Marina Ahoy do? 

“Sailors can check in by themselves through our system that gives a real-time overview of available berth, along with booking and mobile payment for all types of marina services,” explains Koppel. 

So, basically, Marine Ahoy connects vessels in real-time to a marina or harbour in order to automate routine bureaucracy. For marinas, that translates into keeping open 24/7. But in commercial shipping, it could disrupt how harbours are run today, just like booking.com did for hotels. Having a big port automate its services would lead to a win-win situation for shipping companies, sailors and ports. Just think how many man-hours the world’s busiest port in Shanghai, handling more than 32 million containers annually, would save. This could completely disrupt the marina business.

“All the finalists were very impressive, but Marina Ahoy is the company with the biggest chances of having a truly disrupting impact,” says Tero Hottinen, responsible for organising the Marine Mastermind contest and one of the jury members.

As the winners of the Wärtsilä Marine Mastermind contest, Marina Ahoy can look forward to a 30-day Lean Innovation Lab, supported by Wärtsilä. Koppel has high hopes for the sprint.

“We’re a step away from entering the marine service business, and the Marine Mastermind competition has been a good opportunity to evaluate our idea in front of a jury and get some feedback from experts. During the sprint, we are looking for an outcome that interests us as well as Wärtsilä. I can’t wait to play through this,” says Koppel, who has been an entrepreneur most of his professional life. He loves it.

“It’s a way to test your fantasies in a real business environment. You can’t be afraid of failure.” 


Open to new ideas

The Wärtsilä Marine Mastermind contest was launched in November 2015 with the aim of finding interesting partners in the start-up world who could help further propel Wärtsilä’s digitalisation efforts. 

“We got 47 applications from 17 different countries. The jury had a positive problem because it was difficult to choose just five finalists,” says Tero Hottinen. The finalists were then invited to Helsinki to pitch their ideas in person to a jury, and, during Digital Ship in Copenhagen in the beginning of April, the winner was announced. Hottinen says the Marine Mastermind contest is just the beginning for Wärtsilä in teaming up with start-ups. 

“We are now tapping into a new area when it comes to start-up collaboration, and we might be looking at transforming entire business models with the help of open innovation.”

Leave a comment

Load more comments