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AI can increase energy efficiency

07 February 2024

A Just in time system where ships rely on AI-based decision support would save significant amounts of fuel. But how willing are captains, shipping companies, cargo owners, and other stakeholders to reduce speed or change route if necessary? This question has been explored in a pre-study from Lighthouse and the Swedish Transport Administration.

Although the United Nations' International Maritime Organization is imposing increasingly stringent requirements on the global fleet to increase its energy efficiency, there is still much room for improvement in reducing emissions in commercial shipping. In the pre-study project Increase shipping efficiency using ship data analytics and AI to assist ship operations” conducted within the framework of the Swedish Transport Administration's industry program Hållbar sjöfart (Sustainable Shipping), researchers Wengang Mao and Simon Larsson have examined how fuel consumption and air emissions can be reduced through digitization and AI. They do this from two aspects - a technical one regarding how data analytics and AI can be integrated into Just in time systems, and a social one looking at how willing people are to use data analytics and decision support in shipping.

Regarding the technical aspect, the report shows that big data analysis and AI can contribute to significantly reducing fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.

"In the Port of Gothenburg, the average waiting time for ships is 5 hours, and in major ports in the USA or China, one can wait for days. This means that there is great potential for fuel savings. In a Just in time system where the expected arrival time is known for a ship 24 hours before arrival, more than 10 percent fuel savings can be achieved," says Wengang Mao, researcher at Chalmers University.

"With plenty of time on your hands, you can of course slow down and save fuel. But that's not the only advantage. If you have a storm ahead, you can either wait it out or perhaps take a more fuel-efficient route around it.”

According to the report, communication itself could be listed as an energy efficiency measure. However, the concept of communication here does not only refer to correspondence and exchange of information aimed at mutual understanding among various maritime stakeholders. It can also serve as a systematic way to collect, distribute, and reflect on all possible ship operation-related information (requirements, constraints, goals, planning, available sources and navigation conditions, etc.) aimed at achieving mutual understanding and continuous updating of operational goals for fuel saving and emission reduction.

Different ships, of course, have completely different conditions for energy efficiency, and to find out what is suitable for a specific shipping company/ship, it is necessary to identify its technical details, the route they navigate, and, not least, the willingness to adapt.

"Captains have different opinions. Some are very eager to try such a system while others are more hesitant. Many also have strict time frames to adhere to, where a few percent fuel savings are not perceived as sufficient to test a new digital tool that is supposed to provide recommendations. To convince those who are hesitant, we must not only prove that this works, but we must also develop systems that are easy to understand and use," says Wengang Mao.

The report "Increase shipping efficiency using ship data analytics and AI to assist ship operations" has been authored by: Wengang Mao, Chalmers University
Simon Larsson, University of Gothenburg

In collaboration with:
Hannes von Knorring, DNV
Linus Ideskog, Yara Marine"

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