Investing in Armada Technologies—passive air lubrication technology for maritime


Investing in Armada Technologies—passive air lubrication technology for maritime

Words Founders Factory

May 28th 2024 / 3 min read

The problem

Air lubrication is one of the most in-demand technologies in the maritime sector. Air lubrication works through releasing microbubbles under the hull of a ship, creating a very thin layer of aerated water that reduces friction with sea water. Crucially, this reduction of drag means vessels require less energy to propel themselves—a big win not just in terms of cost-savings and efficiency, but in terms of environmental outcomes. 

Existing methods of air lubrication, however, have their shortcomings. Most systems use compressors to generate a continuous flow of air which is then passed beneath

the ship’s bottom plate surface through embedded piping and air cavities in the hull to create the layer of air bubbles.

These compressors not only require significant installation space, they also demand additional power (often an auxiliary engine) and can increase vibration and noise. They can also often increase drag on ships when they are not in operation. These systems also depend largely on certain conditions, with limited efficacy in stormy seas.

How effective these systems actually are is also up for debate. Many systems claim 5-10% in fuel savings, but many systems are closer to 0-7%, and often claim single point performance at a set speed/draft combination.

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The solution

Armada Technologies is the company behind a new patented Passive Air Lubrication System (PALS), a low power, sustainable solution that is aiming to transform maritime efficiency.

PALS uses the ship’s forward motion to create a precise air-water mixture for lubrication, relying not on high-energy air compressors, instead using small capacity water pumps only in sub-optimal conditions. Through a combination of its performance control system and machine learning, PALS ensures better bubble delivery and overall performance. 

Bubble distribution is optimised for each ship and for a variety of operating conditions (speed, depth, or weather), guaranteeing continuous smooth sailing. Moreover, PALS is engineered to excel under slow steaming and energy regulated conditions in order to maintain peak performance. 

The team

Alex Routledge (CEO & Co-founder)

Alex has over a decade of experience in maritime engineering and a chartered Naval Architect. Much of his career has been at Shell, where he was a project engineer overseeing the design, specification, operation and construction of a fleet of chemical carriers, LNG carriers and a very novel LH2 (Liquid Hydrogen) carrier. It was here where he built understanding around energy efficiency technologies. He also holds an MBA from Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford.

Roger Armson (COO & Co-founder)

Roger also brings vast experience in maritime, with over 40 years in the industry. Starting out initially as a navigator across global trade routes, his career has ranged from managing operations for major shipping lines, leadership roles at harbours and ferry fleets, and more recently, consulting for maritime businesses. He has an MBA from Kingston University. 

Johann van der Merwe (CFO)

Johann brings expertise in strategic financial planning to Armada. He spent 3 and a half years at RAND Strategy Advisors, assessing the commercial potential of companies operating in Sub-Saharan Africa, and conducting due diligence for pan-African focused private equity and development finance firms. He’s held various investment analyst roles at Barclays and Bank of America. He has an MBA from Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford.

Why we’re excited to invest

Olivia Brooks, investor at Blue Action Accelerator, says: "Across the maritime industry, we've seen many approaches around fuel saving technologies. Air lubrication technology stood out not just for its environmental benefits but also for cost-savings and efficiency. What we really admired about Alex and the Armada team was their novel passive approach to air lubrication technology, resulting in reduced power usage. The team has shown incredible industry knowledge, alongside a strong vision for the company and the need for this tech in the maritime industry."

What they’re looking to gain from the programme

Armada is excited to take advantage of the programs' bespoke support tailored to its specific needs, including:

  • Determining the optimal size and composition of the organisation to scale 

  • Creating a roadmap of how Armada's PALS can be included on the Maker's List at shipyards to unlock the new build market

  • Assessing the attractiveness of additional revenue streams and revenue models such as a "Pay-as-you-Save" model and the carbon offsets market

Building at the forefront of ocean and coastal health?

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