First AI-assisted passenger boat sets sail to boost fuel efficiency

Ferry giant Stena Line has unveiled what it claims is the world's first passenger boat that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to determine the most fuel-efficient route.

Stena Line has pledged to use AI across its entire fleet by 2021

Stena Line has pledged to use AI across its entire fleet by 2021

The AI platform, developed as part of a partnership with technology firm Hitachi, simulates different route scenarios before suggesting the optimal route and performance setup for fuel efficiency and emission reduction. Factors which the platform considers include currents, weather conditions, water depth and boat speed.

The model is set to be trailed on Stena’s Scandinavica boat by the end of the year, during trips between Gothenburg and Kiel, with a view to a wider roll-out if significant fuel consumption reductions are achieved.

The Stena Scandinavica’s senior master Jan Sjöström said the AI platform has already been “learning quickly” after adjustments were made after each of his trips during the past four weeks.

“Planning a trip and handling a vessel in a safe and, at the same time, a fuel-efficient way is craftsmanship,” Sjöström said. “Practice makes perfect, but when assisted by AI a new captain or officer could learn how to fuel optimise quicker. In return, this contributes to a more sustainable journey.”

The move to trial AI forms part of Stena Line’s sustainability target of reducing its fuel consumption by 2.5% annually. As it strives to achieve this aim, the company has set a target of using AI to assist its entire fleet of 38 ships by 2021.

Going forward, Stena Line said it would like to use the AI platform to teach best practice to the next generation of its captains and officers. The aim of the platform is not to replace the boat crew, but to provide a “decision support system” that can calculate travel factors more efficiently than any human.

All at sea

The move from Stena Line comes at a time when the world's leading ocean transport and shipping companies are making progress towards decarbonisation and fuel efficiency, after the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) set a 2050 target of halving CO2 emissions from 2008 levels.

In 2016, the IMO approved a roadmap through to 2023 on the global adoption of an emissions reduction strategy. Since then, more than 170 countries have reached an agreement to reduce CO2 emissions from their respective maritime sectors by at least 50%, against a 2008 baseline.

A further innovative solution to the emissions reductions challenge comes from Maritime Blockchain Labs (MBL), which recently partnered with big-name stakeholders in the maritime industry – including Lloyd’s Register, BIMCO and Precious Shipping – to improve the traceability of boat fuels in their supply chains. The corporates will use innovative blockchain technology to create an “efficient, tamper-resistant and auditable” chain of custody for the fuels.

Sarah George


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