• A Centena Group Company

Ship traffic is bound to increase in the coming years. With crowded seas, ship collision becomes a major concern and technologies are being developed for safer sea transportation. Maritronics explains various measures taken to lessen ship collisions.


The seas are getting crowded. Predictions say that in the next 30 years maritime trade is going to increase three-fold. Despite the rise in traffic, the number of ship collisions has a drop. Nevertheless, a small error can lead to disruption of service at large. Ship operators need to check for safety regulations for better operations. Maritronics, one of the leading marine service providers, points out to more 75% involvement of human errors in marine accidents.


Some collisions are reportedly caused by crew members becoming too involved in the equipment losing the sense of sea around. Some point out to the shortage of crew post-2008 financial crisis making crew members work more than the prescribed work hours. Lack of training and experience has also called for accidents.


At present, a ship’s radar is one method used to detect other ships and avoid collisions. However, in crowded seas, radar might not be always a feasible solution to avoid a collision.  And the larger the ship, the longer it takes to reduce the vessel’s speed and take avoidance action, increasing the likelihood of a collision.


With the technological transformation in the marine industry, usage of AI and machine learning technologies are in the pipeline. While they aren’t fully implemented, they are looking for all the ways to make sea trade smooth and safe. Currently, AI isn’t used at large and human involvement still rules the deck.


AI provides real-time data which can be easily gathered and understood to identify any errors or mistakes. Preventing collisions is one of the main agendas of implementing AI in ships. AI and big data technology are used for calculating collision risks. Using risk values, operators can proactively detect vessels at risk and make the necessary move. The challenge for the industry is to enhance the technology for real-time access of the risk with the help of an automatic identification system. Researchers found that it was possible to increase the speed control room operators can send alerts of risks to ships by as much as two minutes.


The IMO Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea is in place to ensure that all those operating vessels adhere to a necessary safety framework, covering aspects such as the best way to pass oncoming vessels, safe speeds in certain locations, the safest way to overtake, as well as required equipment that includes tracking devices.


Currently, the shipping industry finds itself stuck between the traditional method of operations and the newer processes that involve the greater use of technology. In the future, it is much more likely that existing regulations will be adjusted in line with the latest technological capabilities, rather than drawing up a completely new set. The basic objective is always to avoid a collision taking place. The simple idea of AI is that: if you have two vessels that are both navigated by computers and they can find a safe way of getting across each other without colliding.


With more vessels expected on seas in the future, AI will be one way to help avoid collisions. However, technology is unlikely to ever fully replace human involvement in control rooms any time soon. AI is more likely to enhance operations, instead of replacing workers.  The risk of marine collision is expected to rise in future and the industry can’t just expect the AI to take up control room activities or maintain safety orders.


AI can never replace humans, notes Maritronics. AI can only enhance technology and to support human intervention to make better choices and decisions.