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This article is written by Devagni Vatsaraj, pursuing a Diploma in Cyber Law, Fintech Regulations and Technology Contracts from LawSikho. 


“The question of whether a computer can think is no more interesting than the question of whether a submarine can swim”, says Edsger W. Dijkstra. Artificial Intelligence is the fastest moving technology, which has an impact on every industry in the society. The pace is so fast that companies across the globe have started keeping a track of the technology’s impact and it’s just going ahead from here.

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With the new technology and advancement in the area everyday, the usage and importance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has grown admirably. There are infinite uses of AI; consider a sector, be it manufacturing, distribution, transportation, academics, science, Information Technology, Telecommunication; AI has contributed and finds itself contributing towards each of these sectors. Through this article, we will see how AI influences the Shipping Industry and how leveraging this technology in the industry helps in achieving efficient operation and predictive capabilities in a better approach. Logistics is beginning to become an AI-driven industry. With the use of AI, there is an excellent potential in the Logistics industry, more so in the maritime industry, to improve through quality and speed by eliminating regular and tedious tasks.

Off late, the Shipping Companies have converted their vessels into remote offices, which can, at sea; have internet access, route planners, email facility, networks for the captains to connect/communicate at the base stations, etc. These companies have acknowledged that faster communication of their vessels not only helps achieve completion of tasks but is also financially very sound. These Shipping companies can now invest in AI to reduce costs and optimise business processes. By using AI, large data sets can be processed, at a much faster pace than a human intelligence can achieve. The more investment in AI, the larger will be the benefit in data analysis. The ship-owners that implement AI at the earliest will be at an advantage to that of the others.

Advantages of Artificial Intelligence in the Shipping Industry

Using AI as a tool to learn from the past and help improve decision-making for the future is one of the most important contributions of technology. Some of the other benefits in the shipping industry are safety (AI can be used to detect threats, avoid accidents and other malicious activities), automation (AI and Machine Learning technology will help capabilities will help in the analysis of past data; and this will help in making right decisions such as shipping seasons, route patterns, weather, etc. Automation will help in making good adjustments without a large share of compromise because the process helps identification of problem before they occur), decision-making (since AI can analyze big data sets and historic data, decisions arrived shall be data-proven and not based on hypothesis), route optimization (with the help of historic data, AI can calculate and predict the weather, the shortest and the fastest route, fuel consumption, hindrances, legalities, etc. and can build an optimization model that will determine the most efficient and sustainable route), and efficiency. Mayflower Autonomous Ship and Yara Birkeland are the best examples, where the vessels are completely based on AI, with no staff on the sea; it uses satellite assistance and natural resources for its daily requirements, backed up by artificial intelligence.

Real-time cases where Artificial Intelligence was used for better results

  1. “Combining Transas with Wartsila will bring the Smart Marine Ecosystem many steps forward. We can now connect Wartsila’s product portfolio, the biggest in the Marine industry, with Ship Traffic Control, Simulators, Navigation solutions and fleet operation solutions from Transas. The combined package will further improve the way a vessel can sail in the most cost efficient and environment friendly way for our customers,” says Roger Holm, President, Wartsila Marine Solutions. Wartsila is establishing a network that will be digitally connected across the entire supply chain through applications that are secure, cloud-based, and smart.
  2. Hitachi Europe Ltd. has partnered with Stena Line, with a goal to implement AI technology on ships to reduce fuel consumption costs and to minimize environmental impact. By leveraging cutting-edge AI technologies, Hitachi will be able to identify the key factors causing high fuel consumption and, critically, advise how to make operations more efficient. Stena Line has in the past, used AI to reduce the amount of plastic on-board, for fuel economy, reduce crew, reduce accidents and for power plants, etc.
  3. Orient Overseas Container Line Limited, the shipping giant, has collaborated with Microsoft Research Asia, to identify, manage and overcome operational difficulties and in turn, reach efficiency.
  4. Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL) of Japan is working with Bearing, a AI-based Silicon Valley company, and has announced in 2019, that it has developed an AI-powered Smart Routing Engine. This application automatically analyzes multiple potential routes for a given voyage and recommends prudent, efficient routing through the use of optimal main engine output and propeller profiles. SenseTime, an AI giant, developed the graphic recognition engine by combining AI deep-learning technology with MOL’s extensive maritime experience.  The system automatically collects image data, which is used to refine the precision of the technology.
  5. Shone robotizes the vessels using AI to blend data from sensors like radar and cameras to create a picture of the hazards around a ship and to navigate among them, which helps in avoiding mishaps.

How AI helps in boosting maritime economy

AI has its own pros and cons. Despite the benefits, there are still barriers to the adoption of AI. Globally some challenges need to be addressed and overcome before moving forward and implementing AI. Most of this planning and execution are at its conceptual juncture, with a mission to achieve value and success, by implementing AI to the maritime industry, which will take the due course of time. Below are a few highlighted advantages of implementing AI in the maritime industry:

  1. The AI empowers the shipping personnel to model fleet management, use cases and highly accurate predictive models with speed, depth and accuracy, which were not available in traditional methods. No prior data science experience required. Advanced strategies will help highlight shortfalls and underperformance within the terabyte of data being generated by shipboard sensors.
  2. Automating the salvage of relevant vessel operating information from a variety of sources, with advanced techniques, such as AI, allows owners of the shipping company to focus more time on safety and data-driven profits.
  3. AI predicts and helps mitigate costs, time and supports the staff in assessing whether maintenance needs to be performed in the near future or can wait longer. It further flags out where, when, how and which assets on the vessel will need maintenance. 
  4. Factors such as weather, currents, and other potential problems are taken into account and then the most efficient route is recommended and this is made possible by refining the AI technology. AI software is able to predict the most easy-on-pocket and efficient route in terms of fuel consumption.
  5. AI system uses high-resolution cameras and graphic processing unit to automatically identify vessels in the surrounding area. It is intended to help improve the safety and help stop large vessels colliding with smaller ones. Such image recognition technology could be used to monitor shipping lanes, security and coastguard operations.
  6. Navigation is one key area for the use of potential of AI in the shipping industry and a number of systems are currently in development. Some use elements of image recognition and tracking software, alongside IoT connectivity. Stena Line has also developed its AI Captain solution for ship navigation. It is able to recalculate routes during voyages when it receives information to say there is an issue with the present route. Autonomous vessel reduces the costs of consumer goods and improves security of passenger ferries. 
  7. AI technologies are also being used to impersonate human sensitivity and cognitive abilities, through which user interfaces ship are benefitted, such as speech recognition directly helps in controlling types of equipment onboard.
  8. AI is helping address risks associated with disrupted plans, be it hurricanes, a tsunami or terror threats that may stop the progress of the overall ship transportation.
  9. A well built AI based application that provides cyber-security solutions, helps fight ransomware, malware, viruses and phishing scams, etc. It will help the Shipping company act on warnings of threat or failure, which will result in preventing downtime.
  10. AI makes the concept of unmanned vessels come to reality. There are no crew on-board vessels; where the technology is making decisions on route planning and hazard avoidance. Equipment such as radar, GPS, cameras, satellites, sensors and LIDAR for the voyage, with AI systems used. 
  11. When the vessel arrives safely in the dock, it needs to be loaded and unloaded efficiently and safely. Industrial cranes are used to transfer containers around the port. Moving tons of cargo can compromise the structural integrity of these cranes over time. At times this fatigue may lead to disastrous collapse. By monitoring the structure and the weather at the port, officials can adjust the upload-unloading and crane operations to increase safety. Cameras, sensors and an anemometer to monitor the torque of the structure, can be fit out on the cranes. AI and Machine learning can analyze data to monitor trends and predict failures before its occurrence. By reducing operator fatigue, port authorities can reduce the risk of error during loading and unloading operations. 


As mentioned earlier, there are hindrances with adoption of AI, such as lack of trust, fear of job replacement and that digitization process is a tedious process and is time-consuming. The potential of AI is hard to disregard. The number of a few successful case studies is known while many remain in the shade; however they continue to grow as we look forward towards integration of AI in the shipping industry. Artificial intelligence can distribute profits to the supply chain and shipping operations. Some advantages include less risk, proper navigation, speedy delivery, reduced cost, improved forecasting, route optimization, and more. The AI technology benefits the port, supply chain, customer, and environment.

It’s a question to ponder upon – if you were a member of the crew, captain, owner of these vessels; would you be concerned about learning the technology and fear losing the job, or instead learn handling and adapting to the technology and be able to navigate vessel from the exteriors of the port, away from the shore. Where would one rather be – in the middle of the sea, fearing a hurricane or sit back and supervise the vessel from the comfort of your house.

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