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Launch of Stena Line's First 'AI' Assisted Ferry

10th September 2018
Lars Carlsson Head of Stena Line's AI and Jan Sjöström, Senior Master of Stena Scandinavia discuss the new AI model on board. Afloat adds the Swedish-Danish route serving ferry is an enlarged sister of Stena Adventurer operating on the Irish Sea: Dublin-Holyhead. Lars Carlsson Head of Stena Line's AI and Jan Sjöström, Senior Master of Stena Scandinavia discuss the new AI model on board. Afloat adds the Swedish-Danish route serving ferry is an enlarged sister of Stena Adventurer operating on the Irish Sea: Dublin-Holyhead. Photo: Stena Line / Patrik Olsson

#FerryNews - Scandinavian based ferry giant Stena Line is conducting a pilot study in which artificicial intelligence is implemented on board. The use of AI is an important part of the Swedish operators efforts to reduce fuel consumption and environmental impact.

In close cooperation with Hitachi technology company, an AI model is developed to use on board. The model will anticipate the most fuel efficient way of operating a particular vessel on a particular route, and will be a support for captains and pilots.

If the model is successful, it will contribute significantly to achieving the annual goal of reducing fuel consumption on board by 2.5 percent.

"The model goes through a large number of scenarios before proposing the most optimal route and best fuel optimization settings during the trip. Thanks to AI we now have the opportunity to take into account a large number of factors, such as currents, weather conditions, water depth and speed through water in more combinations than previously possible to do manually, says Lars Carlsson, Head of AI on Stena Line .

The model is under development and it would not have been possible to move on in the project without a dedicated captain and crew. Therefore, the pilot study is conducted on board Stena Scandinavica (Afloat adds an enlarged sister of Stena Adventurer on the Irish Sea). The study is been supervisised by Senior Master Jan Sjöström, who has worked with fuel optimization on Stena Line for the past 40 years.

"As the model is still developing, at the moment, it is perhaps more we who assist AI than the other way around, but it's an incredibly fun and rewarding process. We have made adjustments after each trip for about four weeks and it's great to see how fast it learns and constantly improve, "says Jan Sjöström, Senior Master of Stena Scandinavica.

The goal is to create such a model that it can provide an ultimate decision base for the captain and officers on board when planning a trip. For example, if AI could provide accurate predictions about current conditions, which is one of the more complex factors today, it would help even the most experienced captain or mate.

In addition, the model can also contribute to knowledge and knowledge transfer to the next generation.

"Planning a cruise and steering a ship in a safe and fuel efficient way is a craft. Exercise gives skill, but if a new captain or mate is assisted by AI, the person can quickly learn to fuel optimize. This, in turn, contributes to a more sustainable journey, "says Jan Sjöström.

Stena Line has an overall goal that all operations will be assisted by AI in 2021. The pilot study at Stena Scandinavica, which operates the Gothenburg-Kiel route, is the first of several tests with AI assistance aboard in 2018. The project will be evaluated by the end of the year . Thereafter, it is decided how the operator will proceed with the implementation of AI Assistance on its 38 vessels.

"We are proud to work with Stena Line to develop and implement AI technology that will create value for both the company and the environment. By working together, thus combining business expertise with data and AI, Hitachi and Stena Line have managed to show how digitization can be used to optimize existing conditions and thus create better results, "says Ram Ramachander, Chief Digital Officer at Hitachi Europe Ltd .

The ferry operator is already assisted by AI in several areas, such as administration, finance, service and customer experience.

Published in Ferry
Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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Ferry & Car Ferry News The ferry industry on the Irish Sea, is just like any other sector of the shipping industry, in that it is made up of a myriad of ship operators, owners, managers, charterers all contributing to providing a network of routes carried out by a variety of ships designed for different albeit similar purposes.

All this ferry activity involves conventional ferry tonnage, 'ro-pax', where the vessel's primary design is to carry more freight capacity rather than passengers. This is in some cases though, is in complete variance to the fast ferry craft where they carry many more passengers and charging a premium.

In reporting the ferry scene, we examine the constantly changing trends of this sector, as rival ferry operators are competing in an intensive environment, battling out for market share following the fallout of the economic crisis. All this has consequences some immediately felt, while at times, the effects can be drawn out over time, leading to the expense of others, through reduced competition or takeover or even face complete removal from the marketplace, as witnessed in recent years.

Arising from these challenging times, there are of course winners and losers, as exemplified in the trend to run high-speed ferry craft only during the peak-season summer months and on shorter distance routes. In addition, where fastcraft had once dominated the ferry scene, during the heady days from the mid-90's onwards, they have been replaced by recent newcomers in the form of the 'fast ferry' and with increased levels of luxury, yet seeming to form as a cost-effective alternative.

Irish Sea Ferry Routes

Irrespective of the type of vessel deployed on Irish Sea routes (between 2-9 hours), it is the ferry companies that keep the wheels of industry moving as freight vehicles literally (roll-on and roll-off) ships coupled with motoring tourists and the humble 'foot' passenger transported 363 days a year.

As such the exclusive freight-only operators provide important trading routes between Ireland and the UK, where the freight haulage customer is 'king' to generating year-round revenue to the ferry operator. However, custom built tonnage entering service in recent years has exceeded the level of capacity of the Irish Sea in certain quarters of the freight market.

A prime example of the necessity for trade in which we consumers often expect daily, though arguably question how it reached our shores, is the delivery of just in time perishable products to fill our supermarket shelves.

A visual manifestation of this is the arrival every morning and evening into our main ports, where a combination of ferries, ro-pax vessels and fast-craft all descend at the same time. In essence this a marine version to our road-based rush hour traffic going in and out along the commuter belts.

Across the Celtic Sea, the ferry scene coverage is also about those overnight direct ferry routes from Ireland connecting the north-western French ports in Brittany and Normandy.

Due to the seasonality of these routes to Europe, the ferry scene may be in the majority running between February to November, however by no means does this lessen operator competition.

Noting there have been plans over the years to run a direct Irish –Iberian ferry service, which would open up existing and develop new freight markets. Should a direct service open, it would bring new opportunities also for holidaymakers, where Spain is the most visited country in the EU visited by Irish holidaymakers ... heading for the sun!

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