Smart-Ship: Steering Ships to Sustainability

By Tessa van Breeden - Do you know what it takes to safely steer a ship toward its destination?

It can be challenging as numerous control panels on the bridge require close attention. For instance, it might be challenging to use the engine most efficiently, or response time to an emergency could be delayed due to the need to diagnose why a particular alarm is sounding. But what if the ship could be steered with a lever that would signal the most effective way to operate the boat? Smart-Ship has developed haptic levers for commercial and recreational vessels to help ships sail and make the maritime industry more sustainable.

Bringing a thesis to life

Roy Kok researched the application of haptic levers in the maritime industry while pursuing a double master’s degree in Offshore and Dredging Engineering & Biomechanical design. He discovered a method to increase safety and efficiency in the maritime sector using force and vibrations in levers. After completing his studies, he teamed up with his brother Brent Kok, who holds a Master’s in fiscal economics, to bring his thesis to life. They began working at the YES!Delft Validation lab, and once Jelle Tiemensma completed his studies, he joined their team.


“I am passionate about using technology to create a more sustainable world. Joining Smart-Ship was an obvious choice for me because of the impact haptic levers can make on the maritime industry.”

Jelle Tiemensma, CTO and Co-founder of Smart-Ship.

Intuitive and Sustainable Sailing

Smart-Ship promotes a more intuitive way of sailing sustainably and avoiding collisions with objects. The company has developed three advanced operating systems that provide real-time feedback through force and vibration. For instance, if the engine is already at optimal speed, the gas lever will discourage the operator from accelerating too quickly. Allowing the engine to warm up properly saves fuel and money and is also better for the environment. Additionally, the vibrations alert operators to potential obstacles, allowing them to focus on the path ahead, which is particularly useful when entering a port. 

The Market

Smart-Ship currently focuses on selling its levers to commercial inland vessels and coasters, which often manage complex maneuvers. Furthermore, Smart-Ship cleverly responds to the remote control trend in the maritime industry, where ships are controlled with levers from offices in Rotterdam or Antwerp. Smart-Ship’s solution stands out due to its comprehensive package: an intelligent lever combined with software that utilizes various data from the ship. This enables the system to calculate the most efficient vessel operation. This makes it a cost-effective solution by reducing the number of incidents, minimizing maintenance requirements, and saving fuel.

“The biggest milestone for me was the certification process of our levers. These are rigorous tests, and we passed the inspection almost instantly, which is very special. We are now certified to install our levers on many types of vessels.” 

Jelle Tiemensma, CTO and Co-founder of Smart-Ship.


Roy and Brent started their business and immediately enrolled in the YES!Delft Validation Lab. When Jelle joined, the three enrolled in the YES!Delft Accelerator program. The program provided valuable lessons on marketing, personnel management, sales, and more while allowing them to share their experiences with other startups. Throughout this time, they remained committed to bootstrapping their startup.

Smart-Ship financed themselves with paid pilots for several instances, using the money earned to develop their products until they received an MIT R&D Grant. With the grant, they could complete their product and make it market-ready, although they still needed to install it on actual vessels. In the meantime, they implemented their levers in simulators for training purposes and to showcase their potential until they received their first ship installation order. The startup has continued to grow steadily, and they are now ready to sell more haptic levers to help ships sail more sustainably.

Your dream can become a reality too!

Don’t miss the opportunity to boost your startup by joining the YES!Delft Validation Lab or Accelerator Program.
However, if working for a startup resonates more with your ambition, we got you! Check out the vacancies placed by our startups.

Be the change, as change starts with you.

 Read the latest news about the Smart-Ship latest announcment of their contribution to the Netherlands’ first zero-emission workboat.

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