AI Captain: The future of Ship Navigation
Inspiring Stena Line to Embrace AI Technology
Stena Line is one of Europe's leading ferry companies with 38 vessels and 21 routes in Northern Europe. It aims to become the world’s first cognitive ferry company. It has also set itself targets for sustainability; one of which is to reduce fuel consumption by 2.5% per nautical mile annually. Stena Line asked Hitachi to identify software solutions that could help make operations more efficient in shipping - improving safety and supporting ships in reducing fuel consumption and emissions. By introducing AI technologies, Hitachi have been able to identify the key factors causing high fuel consumption and advise how to make operations more efficient and environmentally sustainable.
Traditionally, ships use an archive of old routes combined with the knowledge of their captains to plot their routes, but these aren’t necessarily the most fuel-efficient. Several factors, such as wind conditions, water depth, and sea currents are constantly changing and have an effect on the ship that is difficult to predict. Over a lifetime at sea, Stena Line’s most experienced captains develop an instinct to find the best path. But the company can’t wait 25 years to train each new captain; it needed a new and efficient way to pass on that experience and knowledge to the next generation of sailors.
In September 2018, Stena Line introduced AI-assistance to its first vessel: The Stena Scandinavica, which is now running the technology as a pilot study.
The AI model simulates many different scenarios before suggesting the optimal route and performance setup for making fuel efficiencies. With the help of AI, the captain and other ship’s officers are able to consider a number of variables, such as sea currents, weather conditions, water depth and speed through water, in various combinations which would be impossible to do manually. The AI recalculates in real-time and provides the crew with ongoing suggestions to keep the ship on the optimal course.
The officers are also able to feed in information to the AI so that it learns from previous experience, and so Stena Line are continuing to develop and improve the technology. In this way, the project between Hitachi and Stena Line is one of co-creation.
The pilot study on the Stena Scandinavica, on the Gothenburg – Kiel route, is the first of several studies involving AI-assisted ferry trips within the fleet. At the end of 2019 there will be an evaluation of the project, before deciding how to continue with AI-assistance on the company’s fleet of 38 ships.
Hitachi is continuing to review Stena Line’s existing digital architecture and supporting their goal of becoming the world’s leading cognitive shipping company by 2021.
With the help of Hitachi, Stena Line is at the forefront of the shipping industry’s efforts to reduce its environmental footprint whilst increasing efficiency through the integration of smart technology.
The goal is to create an AI model that is so precise that it would be the ultimate decision support system for the captain when planning each trip - the next aim is to use AI technology to accurately predict the sea currents, typically the most complicated variable. This would be an enormous support to even the most experienced Captain, as well as a valuable teaching aid for the next generations of officers.