The robots designed by Neptune have upended a long tradition of manual hull cleaning service, usually supplied by divers, and led the application of cutting-edge innovations in a centuries-old industry.
Neptune Robotics (Chinese: 纳百机器人) will launch hull cleaning services in two extra ports in Ningbo and Zhoushan on May 5, on top of the ports Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Yantian and Shekou.
Neptune made headlines last week with a USD 17.25 million Series A funding round. The investment was led by Sequoia China, followed by Matrix Partners China and SOSV. The proceeds will be used to help the firm expand its presence in more ports, extend robotic product lines and attract talent.
Compared with conventional hull cleaning using divers and brush carts, Neptune’s robots can operate 24/7 while vessels are loading, unloading or bunkering. According to the company’s website, the robots can reach meters above and below the draft, covering all parts of the hull even in muddy waters.
Elizabeth Chan, CEO and co-founder of Neptune, replied to investors that removing the slime, barnacles and mussels accumulating on a ship’s hull for a month can enhance a ship’s fuel efficiency by up to 20%, and that cleaning hulls could also save the world’s merchant fleet over USD 173 billion in fuel costs every year.
By investing in R&D, Neptune has risen from a startup of three people in 2018 to a mature robotics company in 2022 with more than 60 in-house engineers and scientists. The early adopters of the firm’s services include COSCO, CMA-CGM and international shipping companies.