Highlights this week: Highlights this week: ⚓️ 1,000+ abandoned sailors, 🍎 Apple’s history with silicon, 🪐 NASA’s asteroid blasters, and 👨🏭 homemade integrated circuits

Ports, Supply Chains, and Abandoned Sailors

What’s happening: The $14T shipping industry is responsible for 90% of the world’s trade. Despite mounting shipping delays and cargo backlogs, the busiest US port complex shuts its gates for hours on most days and remains closed on Sundays. Meanwhile, major ports in Asia and Europe have operated round-the-clock for years. One stark side-effect of the blockage: There are now over 1,000 sailors currently abandoned at sea, on container ships and bulk carriers around the world.

Some background: Industry consolidation has yielded a half dozen shipping firms that ferry a majority of the world’s containers, driving out smaller competitors who are often one delay or cancellation away from foundering. When debts pile up, or the cost of repairs becomes too high, some firms choose to abandon a ship or sell it for scrap. Some governments require sailors to remain aboard as guarantors until shipowners pay port authorities for berth fees and other charges. This puts sailors in a tough spot, with many electing to stay on ships for years with little more to eat than rice.

  • Over 90 ships are stuck outside the ports of LA and Long Beach, waiting to dock and unload. LA’s ports see more than 25% of America’s imports.
  • The average transit time from China to the US is now over 71 days, compared to 40 days in 2019 (both seem quite long…)
  • Examples of abandoned ships that did more than leave a few sailors in limbo:
Russian-owned MV Rhosus, which carried 2,750 tons of deadly ammonium nitrate, was abandoned in Beirut’s port in 2013 for not being seaworthy. In 2020, these chemicals exploded and devastated Lebanon.

Today, a supertanker filled with 1.1 million barrels of crude oil off the coast of Yemen sits decaying in a warzone. A stray rocket or the ship’s corroding steel hull could spark an explosion and massive oil spill that would further disrupt global supply chains and devastate populations.

Dive Deeper:

Really interesting deep-dive into the basics of container stowage planning, and how it’s important for loading/unloading cargo.

Analysis of the US Truck Driver labor market — relevant, as the trucking industry has been named a key bottleneck in this supply chain crisis.


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Government: NASA + Planetary Defense 🚀🚀

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission is a planetary defense-driven test of technologies for preventing an impact of Earth by a hazardous asteroid. On November 24th, NASA will launch a Prius-sized spacecraft aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket into space with the hopes that it will knock a looming asteroid off of its orbit.

The binary near-Earth asteroid (65803) Didymos is the target for the DART demonstration. While the Didymos primary body is approximately 780 meters across, its secondary body (or “moonlet”) is about 160-meters in size, which is more typical of the size of asteroids that could pose the most likely significant threat to Earth.

There are more than 26,000 near-Earth asteroids, nearly 10,000 of which are known to be larger than 450 feet and another 891 that measure a half-mile long.

Dive Deeper: Here’s a fantastic presentation on the principles of radiation-hardening of electronics for use in space, at the board and ic-level.

Startup News 🚀: Busy, Busy Week 💰💰

CoLab Software, a Newfoundland-based engineering collaboration software startup, raises a $17M series A (founded by The Analog subscriber, Adam!) led by Insight Partners, along with Tesla, Xometry, Atlassian, and others.

Caper AI, a smart-cart and instant checkout startup, was acquired by Instacart for $350M. Early investors include YC, Lux Capital, HCVC, First Round Capital, and others.

Reliable Robotics, an aircraft automation startup, raises a $100M series C led by Coatue Management, along with Lightspeed, Eclipse Ventures, Pathbreaker Ventures, and others.

Tempo Automation, a software-enabled PCB assembler, set to go public via SPAC along with acquiring incumbents Advanced Circuits and Whizz. Early investors include Bolt, Point72 Ventures, Uncork Capital, Lux Capital, and others.

Flux, a browser-based EDA startup, raises a $12M seed led by Outsiders Fund, along with Bain Capital Ventures, 8VC, Liquid2 VC, and others.

Our Next Energy, a Michigan-based battery tech startup, closed a $25M series A led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, along with Assembly Ventures, BMW i Ventures, Flex, and Volta Energy Technologies.

Muon Space, a climate-focused satellite-constellation startup, raises a $10M seed led by Costanoa Ventures, along with Space Capital, Congruent VC, Ubiquity Ventures, South Park Commons, and others.

Quris, an Israeli AI Pharma startup, raises a $9M seed.

Kuva Space, a Finnish space-imaging company, raises $4.85M from Voima Ventures, Nordic FoodTech Venture Capital, and others.

Trustpoint, a space-tech startup developing an alternative to GPS, raises a $2M seed from DCVC.

One Interesting Picture 📸: Apple leaving Intel (way) behind

One Interesting Tweet 🐦: 640,000x in 35 years.