The shipping industry is a constantly growing industry which over the years becomes more, efficient, safer for human life and more environmentally friendly. In recent decades and especially in recent years, artificial intelligence has made its entrance in all industries and in our lives, with the aim of many processes of everyday life becoming more efficient, faster and safer. In the case of shipping, tests and efforts are being made so that artificial intelligence enters this industry in order to create autonomous ships that are unmanned and in most cases do not need human control.
The idea of autonomous ships is nothing new. In 1973, Rolf Schonknecht in his book “The ships and shipping of tomorrow” describes ships of the future, and says that the ships would sail with the captain practicing his profession in an office somewhere ashore using a computer. The decade of 1980, the idea of smart ships was discussed in Japan. Ships which would operate without a crew, but the idea was discarded when cheaper foreign crews became available. In the 2000s, the IMO (2005) took an initiative and aimed at increasing security in the navigation, where the concept of smart ships appeared again, but also in 2007 in a document from Waterborne TP on the development of the maritime industry
in Europe. The main motivation for the creation of unmanned ships, which is the first important step on the road to building a smart ship, beyond from the reduction of operating costs, is the increase of the total efficiency and safety. As unmanned ships can operate either completely autonomously or remotely controlled with remote control from the control center ashore, it is only a matter of time before a fully autonomous ship, as maritime experts say. As we know, ships that can operate with remotely have already been built, however they are at an experimental stage. For example, in August 2018 Wartsila successfully piloted for hours a ship in the North Sea remotely controlled from its facilities in San Diego, California, 8,000 kilometers away. Of course, the vision of major players in the autonomous ship industry, such as Rolls-Royce, is not just to build an unmanned ship controlled from land, but to create a fully autonomous ship that can make a transatlantic voyage.
At the same time, a race has begun between China, Japan and northern European states for the lead of artificial intelligence sector at sea. Four projects on autonomous ships are currently underway in Norway. It is estimated that in the coming years there will be the first full operational result through these programs. Engine maker Wartsila also struck a deal with cruise major company Carnival to control the engine rooms.
Other developing technologies that will begin to emerge in the maritime sector, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud Computing, Big Data, and Robotics have the potential to change the ways ships can be designed, built and operated in the future. An example is the automatic simulations that will be used to reflect our physical world in a virtual model, which is already used in many design processes, helping to intelligently design a ship.
- The Internet of Things could be used to connect objects in the physical world that have a virtual representation on the Internet, allowing them to communicate and interact with each other.
- Cloud computing and Big Data analytics will be used to make real-time decisions and collect and evaluate data from various sources inside and outside the company, if necessary, during the business planning process and trip/route optimization.
Some companies that have already begun to use artificial intelligence and integrate it strongly into shipping are the following:
Metis is essentially a virtual personal assistant, which can be used by executives of shipping companies. It works without interruption 24 hours a day and monitors every ship of a shipping company recording thousands of indications and data from them. It also has the
ability to accept data from third party systems such as weather conditions prevailing in the area where each ship is located. The innovation of Metis gives the advantage to shipping companies to have in their possession accurate forecasts, such as the accurate forecast
fuel consumption, taking into account the weather conditions that the ship will face according to its course, and all its characteristics, (such as the actual performance of the main engine), until the next destination. On one occasion on a ferry route between China and Australia, data collectors spotted a terrible shake and strain of the vessel.
“The whole ship suffered a strain and then the system found that this ship made a 360-degree turn, came back and continued its course. This particular move cost an amount of fuel but was never reported by the crew, however our smart device detected it,” METIS scientists said. “The captain of the ship may have denied that it had happened, but the system had recorded it from the ship’s gps,” they add, citing a similar example that happened on another ship in South America.
- DeepSea Technologies
The operation of DeepSea’s platform has the ability to collect data from ships to the world in real time. Utilizing the technology of Machine Learning system can evaluate the data collected and can quickly identify any problems in order to suggest actions so as
to optimize the performance of ships, leading to cost reduction.
The Deepsea platform initially began to be tested on Danaos vessels Corp., in 2017.. Nowadays, the Deepsea platform has been adopted by hundreds of companies, including some of the largest multinational companies.
The innovative optical analysis solution provides a digital bridge between ship and shore, enabling real-time collaboration between shipowners, managers and crew on board to improve vessel safety and productivity. It reduces problematic incidents on board by 40% and through artificial intelligence and computer vision, ShipIn’s FleetVision™ detects incidents such as safety or security risks, operational anomalies and machine problems.
Laskaridis Shipping Company Ltd., owned by Panos Laskaridis announced that has launched with the maritime technology company ‘ShipIn Systems’, the creation of the world’s first “FleetVision” platform. He said he would deploy the platform across the fleet in the coming months. The ShipIn team will install AI-powered CCTV cameras on Laskaridis Shipping’s vessels so as to detect issues such as maintenance, navigation and cargo safety. The platform will automatically notify Laskaridis Shipping and each ship in case of any safety and security risks.
“We are proud to be the first ship management company in Greece to implement this innovative technological solution,” said Laskaridis Shipping COO George Christopoulos. “The FleetVision™ system will be an important part of our digitalization strategy and will help us to better focus our policy towards operational excellence.” FleetVision is able to detect incidents that may occur in real time before they trigger accidents. This is expected to improve performance and safety awareness,” said Katerina Prifti, DPA-HSQE Manager at Laskaridis Shipping.
Finally, we conclude that autonomous ships have great potential to influence and change the shipping industry of the future up to a certain degree. However, in order to support this view better, it is necessary to make further studies, testing but also to determine the result of this maritime industry project. However, the human factor cannot be eliminated, but what artificial intelligence can do is to improve and advance existing jobs. As Panos Zachariadis, the technical director of one of the best ship-owning companies, Atlantic Bulk Carriers Management Ltd, said in an interview: “I believe that the ships of the future are a reality which is coming and we should not turn a blind eye on them. On the contrary, we must be involved in developments in a timely manner so that Greek shipping to remain first.”