Stena's new AI model provides captains with accurate predictions about operating conditions (Image: Patrik Olsson)
European ferry operator Stena Line is working with technology company Hitachi to trial the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to help predict the most fuel-efficient way to operate specific vessels on a specific route.
Together, the two companies are developing an AI-powered model that can be installed onboard Stena’s ferries and provide captains and officers with accurate predictions about weather, currents and other variable operating conditions. This would enable crew to make more informed decisions when planning each ferry sailing, ultimately helping Stena to save fuel and achieve its goal to reduce fuel consumption by 2.5 % annually.
“The model simulates many different scenarios before suggesting the most optimal route and performance setup,” said Lars Carlsson, head of AI at Stena Line. “With the help of AI we are able to consider a number of variables – such as currents, weather conditions, shallow water and speed through water – in various combinations, which would be impossible to do manually.”
Currently, the model is being trialled onboard ro-pax ferry Stena Scandinavica on the route between Gothenburg, Sweden and Kiel, Germany. The tests are being supervised by the ship’s senior master Jan Sjöström who has been helping Stena to optimise fuel for the past 40 years.
“We’ve been making adjustments to the model after each trip for about four weeks and it is amazing to see how quickly it is learning,” said Sjöström. “Planning a trip and handling a vessel in a safe and, at the same time, fuel-efficient way is craftsmanship. 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.”
Stena, which already uses AI to improve its administration, finance and customer experience operations, aims to use the technology to assist every area of its business by 2021. Hence, the pilot study on Stena Scandinavica will be the first of several AI-assisted ferry trips this year. At the end of 2018, Stena will evaluate the project and decide how to progress with AI-assistance on its 38 ships.
“We are proud to be working with Stena Line to develop and implement AI technology that will deliver benefits to both the company and the environment,” said Ram Ramachander, chief digital officer at Hitachi Europe. “By taking a co-creation approach, working together to combine industry expertise with data and AI, Hitachi and Stena Line have been able to show how digitisation can optimise existing physical assets to create a better outcome.”
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