In its latest technology report, Bureau Veritas offers views on the key concepts and enablers behind smartships and the great promise they hold for the shipping industry.
he report provides insights into what smartships are and what they are not and why they matter for the industry.
Smart functions onboard ships will improve monitoring and transparency, and thus act as key drivers of the transition toward more sustainable shipping
says BV, adding that “facilitating compliance with international regulations, smartships also provide reductions in operating costs through lower emissions, increased efficiency and optimized maintenance.”
“To achieve these benefits, integrating smart functions onboard ships remains a significant journey,” the report believes.
For data to be transformed into meaningful information that can be leveraged to optimize operations, it needs to be adequately collected, integrated, processed and contextualized. This can be done through the following sequence:
#1 Data collection: The digitalization of the maritime world is not limited to sensors being placed onboard ships to continuously monitor performance. Ship operators and managers can also access data being collected about weather, marine traffic, market data and other key conditions affecting ship performance.
#2 Data integration: Once sensor data has been collected, it needs to be merged. This requires not only hosting the data on secure platforms but also cleaning it and ensuring all data formats are compatible. This enables them to be synched, compared and meaningfully processed.
#3 Data processing: This step provides information not only about the status of a fleet but also about potential issues with or benefits of given routes. To this end, relevant data is mined and analyzed to extract useful information, patterns and trends.
#4 Data contextualization: As increasingly large volumes of data are collected, integrated and processed, the information that data represents may quickly become too overwhelming to navigate. One of the key functions of digital solutions supporting decision-makers is the ability to present the right data, at the right time, to the right person.
Applying artificial intelligence to the maritime industry
According to the report, the maritime industry leverages AI’s potential in three different types of applications:
- Computer vision: the ability to derive meaningful patterns from pictures, videos and other visual supports. This is typically used for anti-collision systems, fire detection, and corrosion or cracks detection, based on pictures and videos generated from drones performing hull structure inspections;
- Predictive patterns: predictive maintenance and optimal route calculations;
- Natural Language Processing (NLP): automatic filling out of forms and logs, automatic reading of reports, enhanced search engines and chatbots.
One of the key issues with data flow is that it can be interrupted, intercepted and/or corrupted. The increasing digitalization of the shipping industry, and the smartness it has enabled, are therefore adding another layer of insecurity for maritime stakeholders.
In fact, published figures on cyber security in the shipping sector speak for themselves: attacks on ships have risen 900% from 2017 to 2020. In addition, during the first months of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, a 400% increase in cyberattacks against shipping companies was reported, driven by spikes in malware, ransomware and phishing emails. Cyber insecurity is on the rise, and international bodies like the IMO, the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) and the European Commission (EC) are addressing the issue through regulations and directives.
Beyond the human factor, ships’ reliance on numerous communication and navigation systems to transport goods around the world creates other potential targets for cyberattacks. An AIS, for example, can be tampered with in order to provide false information about a ship’s position, or create ghost ships on other ships’ charts. Satellite communications (SATCOM) may also be attacked, Atlantic Council report. disrupting ship-to-ship and/or ship-to-shore communications. As for navigation systems, their rapid digitalization has also made them more vulnerable to cyberattacks.
An attack on an Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS), for instance, could prevent a ship from navigating correctly, ‘freezing’ the vessel until the issue is resolved.