Many industries are gearing up to embrace the Artificial Intelligence
in their day to day operations, monitoring, and control mechanisms. There are many advantage because of state of art softwares and feedback loops which can be tackled by the AI itself without any manual interference except the cases where a parameter goes beyond the range of the system and pushes the alarm for manual intervention. Though AI would eventually be adopted and would be a major consideration in the industries but shipping has its own specific areas of concern which would be looked after better by the AI mechanisms. So, it appears that shipping industry is poised to adopt AI technology in a big way. They have actually already adopted some advanced softwares and platforms for various purposes and they will be going for complete AI adoption in near future once the robust platforms are available.
Shipping industry is in a way different from the other industries as it has to undergo the regulations and rules applied at a specific port as well as the general guidelines prescribed by the International Maritime Organisation. These are already well understood and followed by the ship crew but once AI is adopted in a big way these things would also become a part of it to alert the ship captain time to time for the regulatory mechanisms in different parts of the oceans and seas in the vicinity of different countries. That would help in avoiding inconveniences and embarrassment to the ship crews when by mistakes they do not follow some important maritime legal stipulations.
There is a big need of optimisations and cost control mechanisms in shipping as a small cut in any input can make a big change in the operational expenses. Let us now look at some areas where shipping industry can be benefited by adopting AI.
1. Area of navigation - In the area of navigation what is required is that ship should be navigated through safer routes by consulting the latest charts and environmental concerns. This being a huge data, only AI type of platform can handle it efficiently to take a decision for safe and optimise voyage planning. Navi-Planner is one such platform which uses machine learning to optimise the navigation planning. This platform is capable of monitoring near misses and other such incidents for reference and record. This type of AI system can correct the speeds also depending on these measurements to ensure safe and efficient navigation.
Other programs are also under development namely Orca which would be capable of imaging and tracking the far objects using camera and sensors and would be very useful to avoid collisions or such other mishaps. These are in fact based on deep learning algorithms. If there is an issue with the present route of the ship then AI system can suggest another route by doing the required calculations.
2. AI processes at shipping terminals - This is an area which is also very promising for the shipping industry. Shipping terminals are always buzz with the activities and many operations like container handling, decking of ships, movement of ships in and out of the port etc are very massive and sometimes very complicated due to limitations of space and safe margins for ship movements.
Many companies are thinking to adopt AI in this area in near future and are already allocating for it in their future plans. In fact, K-line has already undertaken a research project in maritime logistics in collaboration with Hiroshima University; Marubeni Corporation; and the National Institute of Maritime, Port and Aviation Technology (MPAT).
3. Fuel consumption - Fuel is one item where there is a big scope of cost cutting and any AI platform which can monitor this important area and incorporate effective measures to reduce it, is welcome. Many companies have got some research done in this matter before adopting AI technologies and on an average it is found that using AI technology can save fuels up to 2-3% which is a very substantial amount. Stena line's 'Fuel Pilot' AI software is capable of suggesting economical route in terms of fuel consumption. In many shipping companies a total of 15-20% expense is towards fuel only.
4. Image recognition systems - Shipping companies have recognised this area with much interest and AI has a lot potential here. The main task of these AI platforms would be to safeguard against the freak collisions between the big ships and small boats and other hazards which often take place in congested and crowded places specially in coastal areas and in and around the ports. Some systems are already developed which use high resolution cameras and graphic processors to capture the image of the objects in surrounding areas and definitely such images can alert the system for corrective actions.
A collaborative project between Chinese AI start up company SenseTime and Japanese shipping firm Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) is in progress for perfecting an image recognition system for shipping industry.
5. Prediction of water currents - This is another area of interest where AI has great prospects as it would give the ship captain a great value in deciding and adopting a particular route. These things are under development.
6. Unmanned automated vessels - This is something futuristic but is highly connected to the AI technology as a ship on its own is something which we can only dream of. This area is getting the interest from major research institutions and already some shipping companies have started their pursuits in the matter. An experiment is going to be held soon by sending an automated ship (no crew aboard) Mayflower from Plymouth, UK to Massachusetts, USA via Atlantic ocean. It will have all automated equipments connected to satellite and GPS and would be monitored from UK.