A.I In Maritime Industry: A Look At IBM Mayflower

Ai in Maritime

A.I In Maritime Industry: A Look At IBM Mayflower

The history of water navigation is one of the oldest histories of human civilization. We can trace the use of water-based transportation to the 4th century BCE. And the history got better and better as time went on. From oar-powered boats to sails and then machine powered ships thanks to the industrial revolution- shipping technology has never remained in the status quo. We have come a long way. However, unlike other industries, the shipping industry is seeing some delay in the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies. AI in maritime industry is still in its nascent stage. Automated systems are not being leveraged much. Fortunately, the scene is changing fast. We can see an uptick in the upgradation of maritime technology and the introduction of the IBM Mayflower is going to be an epoch in this journey towards Maritime Automation.

IBM Mayflower: An Awesome Chapter In The History of AI In Maritime Industry

IBM Mayflower is an AI-powered ship that was launched this September after extensive trial runs. What’s so special about it? It’s an unmanned ship. And when we say unmanned, we are not talking about remorse controlled ships. IBM Mayflower is going to be helmed by Artificial Intelligence. If the project succeeds, it will be a new chapter in the history of AI in the maritime industry.

IBM Mayflower Uses Existing A.I Technologies Used In Other Industries

The best thing about IBM’s A.I ship is the fact that it has not used any new technology-specific for the maritime industry. IBM has leveraged its already existing flagship technologies that power businesses in other industries.

  • This AI-powered ship has been trained using IBM Maximo Visual Inspection using close to one million images related to maritime transportation. Mayflower is now capable of ‘seeing’ and ‘recognizing’ debris, land, other ships, bridges and so on.

  • The executive activities of the AI Captain rely on rules-based automation technology. IBM has used its Operational Decision Manager for this purpose. ODM is already used by businesses for things like automated loan approval.

  • The eyes and ears of this AI powered ship are 30 onboard cameras, sonar, radar, AIS, and weather software.

  • Now, to be fully unmanned, IBM Mayflower needed to have processing abilities onboard the ship itself. IBM has its own flagship Edge Application Manager to orchestrate 15 edge computing devices onboard the ship.

  • The whole automated marine system is powered by IBM Cloud Pak For Business Automation.

Sounds futuristic, doesn’t it? The IBM Mayflower has already been to the Atlantic. After a minor glitch, the ship is all set to restart its voyage. The crewless ship is not just a fancy scientific innovation. The ocean is treacherous. Close to 3000 marine casualties are reported every year. And when it comes to oceanic research, human scientists can’t visit many parts of the ocean where the weather is not so accommodating. IBM Mayflower aims to save human lives, perform deep oceanic research to aid humans in cleaning the polluted oceans and save marine flora and fauna.

AI Based Tools Are Already Being Used In Ships

While IBM Mayflower is still a science experiment, there are many AI based tools in the Maritime industry that are aiding ships to be more efficient. Here are two case studies of how AI in maritime industry is solving various pressing issues.


  • Hitachi has developed an AI system that leverages Machine Learning powered by Neural Networks to analyse lots of historical data of a ship so as to come up with fuel-saving best practices. The AI system revealed that despite similar weather conditions and routes, some days the ship consumed more fuel and some days it consumed less. This indicated that the human captain needed some aid to use the same settings during such similar trips. The AI system is capable of suggesting the optimal speed and floating position based on the historical data to save the highest percentage of fuel.

  • Mitsui OSK Lines in Japan partnered with a U.S based A.I startup to develop an autonomous platform that would enable ships to get optimal routing information to save time and fuel. The platform analyses different routes that a ship is allowed to use and then chooses the most optimal one. As is the case for any A.I system, Bearing’s route-planning system has been fed with data from 2500 ships.
Ai in Maritime

How We At Automation Factory Used AI To Solve Real World Problems For A Shipping Company

Automation is in the heart of A.I. Without automation, an A.I system can’t perform efficiently. AutomationFactory.ai has created an automated system that can wade through the jungle of emails that a shipping company receives every day. Hunting the right emails, entering the data, escalating the issue mentioned in the emails, replying back etc are all repetitive tasks that can be automated. We aim to do just that. WIth our Machine Learning Platform, Shipping Lines can automate these boring tasks.

Read our case study on this.

It’s heartening to see that Artificial Intelligence is finally benefiting the shipping industry. After the pandemic, the shipping industry is facing a lot of operational crises. The result is the crippling of the supply chain across all industries. And, now with the ‘Great Resignation’ hitting all the industries, the maritime industry is severely short of human resources. With A.I, the shipping industry can streamline its processes, make up for the lost human resources and above all, assist in the work of human workers.

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