The maritime industry is experiencing a digital revolution with new technology applications across ports, port services, shipping, dispatch, warehousing, and maritime services, among other business areas. From autonomous ships and drones to digital procurement services, artificial intelligence (AI) is at the cusp of this transformation, driving innovations in internal processes and the customer experience.
Today, more than 80% of goods are transported by sea. As AI drives efficiencies in other industries, the potential economic impact of AI applications in shipping is just beginning to unfold. But even as drones and self-driving vehicles gain headlines, maritime business leaders and personnel are discovering that it is the intelligent automation of data processing and management, information extraction and processing, semantic search, and virtual assistants that will change how they do business.
5 AI Use Cases in the Maritime Industry
According to the UK Department for Transport, “The utilization of artificial intelligence… will radically enhance the maritime working environment.” Consider how the following use cases will drive this transformation and improve how business leaders and personnel carry out their responsibilities.
1.Accurate and Accessible Documentation
As port operations controllers maintain constant communication during daily vessel operations, they struggle to retain emerging insights for the planning of subsequent vessel calls and exception handlings. The absence of a system to track and tag real-time and past information has made the retrieval of historical data difficult and time-consuming.
An AI-driven semantic search engine for information identification with a virtual assistant interface can help controllers make sense and extract information from past operations experiences. Semantic search uses auto-tagging and ontology that users can employ through an easy-to-use interface, boosting the accuracy of mission-critical information while easing controllers’ access to those insights during high-pressure situations.
2. Auto-logging Complex Shipping Documents
When paper documents like a bill of lading (BL) or a commercial invoice are transacted manually, it slows down financing processes and payments between parties — critical to shipping and logistics. Repeating this process becomes costly for shippers, consignees, carriers, financiers, and logistics partners as goods continue to be traded and transported.
AI solutions can accurately read and extract terms from a bill of lading, removing the need for humans to understand and extract information manually. This is especially useful when executing routing instructions for carriers, but also provides greater visibility for all parties involved in a transaction.
3. Timely and Accurate Certification Authentication
Seafarers require compulsory certificates whenever they cross international borders, but authenticating these certificates is a long, outdated process that can delay business activities. Certificate fraud is a common problem as well, forcing regulators to consult multiple resources to confirm every single certificate prior to deployment.
Unstructured document extraction provided by AI can streamline this process, even while protecting against those who would tamper with their certificates or present fraudulent ones. Maritime professionals should look to the financial industry, where companies have already reduced onboarding times from multiple days to mere minutes using AI solutions.
4. Collaboration and Document Management
As in other industries, maritime professionals must manage high volumes of emails. They must also consolidate, archive, and search for mission-critical documents and files across multiple systems, offices, and teams.
New innovations in “everyday AI” can transform mundane and time-consuming processes into easy-to-execute capabilities. Email bots, for example, help users sort emails in their inbox automatically or automatically [identify] numbers on receipts to populate expense reports. This augmentation of existing processes is a way to streamline or add value without asking much of the humans, Forrester reports.
Users can filter, index, and parse emails, and even share emails or documents effectively across teams and offices. Image recognition tools allow users to extract relevant data from documents for direct integration with in-house IT systems. This dramatically reduces the amount of time that personnel spend sorting emails, improves work processes across environments, and improves document handling and control.
5. AI-Assisted End-to-End Delivery Management
Chatbots have grown in their popularity as both front-facing customer experience systems and employee-assisting systems across industries. According to a Salesforce report, 2019 saw a 136% growth rate in chatbot adoption within service organizations, foreshadowing a greater role for this technology across industries.
In the maritime sector, AI-driven chatbots can help with processes like delivery booking, shipment tracking, and delivery-related inquiries, especially through voice recognition systems that allow global transportation companies to “talk” to their customers and help answer their questions. Maritime organizations are increasingly likely to integrate chatbots with customer-facing systems as customers require personalized services, such as tools for planning and tracking.
A virtual assistant chatbot with access to semantic search, for example, could help retrieve and translate information for customers with a simple voice command. Some other potential use cases include:
- Requesting deliveries
- Accessing pickup delivery addresses, dates, and times
- Getting information about additional services, such as insurance or express shipments
- Amending, canceling, or changing orders
Capitalizing on AI Calls for Upskilling the Maritime Workforce
Maritime business stakeholders are realizing that AI is as likely to transform digital processes in their industry as it has already done in healthcare, education, and retail. In its recent Maritime R&D roadmap sharing, Singapore’s Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Transport minister Dr Lam Pin Min cited “Innovation and digitalisation are key areas for Maritime Singapore to sharpen our competitive edge.” Only by preparing personnel with the appropriate skills and setting the right processes in place, maritime enterprises can maximize the value of these new technologies as they evolve in real-time.