Automation and AI at sea: The tech-driven future of the maritime sector | HCLTech

Automation and AI at sea: The tech-driven future of the maritime sector

Dr. Claus Reimers, Deputy CTO at Lloyd’s Register, shares insights on maritime business and the impact of emerging technologies, unmanned ships, cybersecurity and the plight of seafarers
9 minutes read
Mousume Roy
Mousume Roy
APAC Reporter, HCLTech
9 minutes read
Automation and AI at sea: The tech-driven future of the maritime sector

The maritime sector, once characterized by traditional practices and manual operations, is undergoing a remarkable transformation driven by technology. The integration of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), automation and analytics is modernizing the industry, enabling unprecedented levels of efficiency, safety and sustainability.

Though, the adoption of artificial intelligence, IOT, drones and robotic process automation in the maritime sector has created new horizons, integrating emerging technologies is not without its challenges.

Commenting on the digital wave in maritime industry, Dr Claus Reimers, Deputy CTO at Lloyd’s Register (LR), remarked: “Maritime has a lot of data, but it’s all an isolated system. Data governance and measurement are also a big topic, which we need to overcome as a maritime business.”

“The other important challenge is digital maturity, and maritime is a little behind this compared to other sectors. Maritime organizations need to help people to come through maturity curve, step by step. The adoption of the technology, data and the accessibility and its quality, all plays a major role in maritime business,” he added.

Recently, HCLTech powered Lloyd's Register’s Salesforce transformation journey to drive simple, intelligent and innovative customer experiences. As a technology partner of LR, HCLTech is exploring how to deploy emerging technologies to revolutionize the way the maritime industry operates today and into the future.

Autonomous ships: Shaping the future of maritime transport

The concept of autonomous ships, once relegated to science fiction, is rapidly becoming a reality. With advancements in AI, machine learning and communication technologies, fully autonomous vessels are being developed and tested.

These ships are expected to drastically reduce operational costs, as they eliminate the need for onboard crew quarters, reducing manpower expenses and optimizing cargo space. While fully autonomous shipping is still in its early stages, it holds immense potential to reshape global logistics.

“There is a lot of talk around decarbonization now. The maritime industry wants to be carbon neutral by 2050. When you talk about autonomous ships, and you wouldn't make them fully autonomous, you could design a completely new vessel. There was one company, they were designing a little ship for which they went back to the drawing board and said—how will we design the ship if there's no human on board? You don't need a kitchen, restroom or railing. So, they redesigned the vessel completely. In the process, they realized with the change of design, one could reduce the carbon footprint.”

He added: “However, apart from technology, there are legal perspective. The law that's currently in place was done when the maritime road switched from sailing to steam. So, there's a lot that needs to be done there.”

Sustainability in maritime industry

The maritime sector, like many other industries, is increasingly concerned about its environmental impact. The use of AI, automation and analytics can contribute to sustainability efforts by optimizing vessel routes, minimizing fuel consumption and reducing emissions.

“At Lloyd’s Register, we focus on our carbon footprint and look at where we get our energy from. Since LR belongs to the LR Foundations, the objective of the foundation is to make the world a safer place and we have a decarbonization hub. We work with other maritime businesses and researchers all over the world to figure out, how can we achieve being carbon neutral in 2050?”

Additionally, research and development efforts are underway to explore alternative fuels and propulsion technologies to make shipping more eco-friendly. “So, the question is, what is the fuel of the future—is it nuclear, methanol, ammonia or hydrogen”, added Reimers.

Jointly HCLTech and Lloyd’s Register is taking on the challenges of sustainability, the environment and efficiency. Together this partnership will bring respective expertise to transform the industry.

Digital revolutionizing the high seas

The maritime sector is on the cusp of a transformative journey, with digital technology leading the way into a new era of shipping and logistics.

Reimers commented: “The biggest impact in maritime will come through digital. How we utilize data is important. Eventually, the vessels will get lighter, the material will get stronger, there will be new designs and different ways of providing propulsion, basically how to push a vessel forward.”

Explaining the situation, Reimers stated: “By utilizing weather routing technologies, captains can optimize vessel routes based on various factors, such as the load, weather conditions and currents. This enables them to avoid penalties due to delays and added costs. However, congestion at ports can still cause inefficiencies. Integrating port information into the process allows for optimization of the entire supply chain, leading to increased efficiency and a significant reduction in the carbon footprint.”

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Seafarers in the tech-driven future

Seafarers are the unsung heroes of the maritime industry, braving the vast and unpredictable oceans to keep global trade afloat. Their jobs are not only physically challenging but also mentally demanding, often enduring long periods away from their families.

They work tirelessly, navigating through adverse weather conditions, maintaining complex machinery and ensuring the safe transport of goods worldwide. Supporting seafarers’ well-being is crucial not only for their sake but also for the smooth functioning of the industry itself.

“LR has started something called the safety tech accelerator. We help startups and American businesses to come together to look after the well-being for seafarers. This does not get enough appreciation since it's a tough job. Ensuring their welfare can lead to increased productivity, reduced accidents and better decision-making aboard ships,” Reimers added.

The rising tide of cyber risks

The digital transformation in the maritime industry has exposed the sector to new and evolving cybersecurity risks. As ships and ports become more interconnected, cyber threats pose significant challenges to the safety, security and economic stability of the global maritime business.

“Cybersecurity is more important than ever. The more you connect different systems and go digital, the bigger the impact of cyber risks. For example, if a hacker has infiltrated a ship’s GPS coordinates. Imagine if somebody hacked a vessel and drove it somewhere else. So, it's an important topic and LR has our own cyber company as part of our QA, who is looking over things from a security perspective,” added Reimers.

The tech-driven future of the maritime sector is promising, with AI, automation and analytics leading the way towards enhanced efficiency, safety and sustainability. Autonomous ships and unmanned systems are reshaping the industry's landscape, with organizations preparing for the transformational changes ahead.

Despite the challenges of implementing emerging technologies, their potential benefits make them a crucial aspect of the maritime industry's evolution. Balancing progress with sustainability and addressing the concerns of seafarers are essential for ensuring a smooth and prosperous transition into this new era of maritime transportation.

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