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The prospect of unmanned container vessels serving global container supply chains took another step forward today.

Sea Machines Robotics, a US developer of autonomous vessels, announced it had raised $10m from venture capital funds.

The investors were led by Accomplice VC and Eniac Ventures, but also include Toyota AI Ventures, TechNexus Venture Collaborative, NextGen VP, Geekdom Fund, Launch Capital and LDV Capital, and brings Sea Machines’ external funding up to $12.5m.

Boston-headquartered Sea Machines, which in April signed up Maersk Line to pilot its “perception and situational awareness technology aboard one of the company’s new-build Winter Palace ice-class containerships”, said it would use the new funds to grow its R&D and engineering teams as well as expand its sales efforts globally.

“We are creating the technology that propels the future of the marine industries and this investment enables us to double down on our commitment to building advanced command and control products that make the industry more capable, productive and profitable,” said Michael Gordon Johnson, founder and chief executive.

Jim Adler, founding managing director of Toyota AI Ventures, added: “We believe autonomous mobility can help improve people’s lives and create new capabilities – whether on land, in the air or at sea.

“Sea Machines’ autonomous technology and advanced perception systems can reduce costs, improve efficiency and enhance safety in the multi-billion dollar commercial shipping industry. This marks our first investment in the maritime industry, and we’re excited to embark on this journey.”

Vic Singh, founding general partner at Eniac Ventures, added: “The level of traction Sea Machines has from the global maritime industry is a tell-tale sign that the industry is the next frontier for autonomy.”

And Michael Rodey, senior manager at AP Møller-Maersk, said: “I think this investment sends a strong signal on the types of technologies that will come to define the maritime industry in the future.”

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