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60 seconds with... Dr Nikolaos Loukeris on artificial intelligence in shipping


Did you know?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is estimated to be a $8 billion market today and is expected to exceed $106 billion within just a couple of years, according to a recent study. What’s more, in the past 6 years, over “$3.3 billion has been invested in digital start-ups in the shipping and logistics sector”, confirms a report by BCG

Dr Nikolaos Loukeris discusses how AI is shaping the maritime industry.

The shipping industry has gained momentum in the last few years and it’s now changing at an accelerated pace. What is one thing you would like to see happening in this space in the next 3 years?

“With the cost of fuel and vessels rising across the board, I believe an upgrade in efficiency that can lead to increased profitability, lower energy costs for transportation, more labour precision and improved environmental quality is an exciting prospect and AI will have a big role to play. “


What are currently the main applications of artificial intelligence and machine learning in shipping?

“There are various applications, particularly in the technical departments e.g. diagnostics, engine control, security, signal transmission, using optical and sound recognition to detect threats etc. that already exist in shipping companies and their vessels. However, these can be characterised as sporadic and of limited integration. Currently, there isn’t a fully specialised application in this industry and applications follow the generic trends of the wider market.”

What issues can IT managers and ship managers tackle by working with AI?

“The main challenges stem from the same issues of reliability, efficiency and sustainability, which the maritime industry is known for.

  • In terms of reliability, AI can support more efficient procedures and applications of technology as well as better people interaction.  
  • Applying AI to jobs that are high risk but offer low personal satisfaction (e.g. cleaning of cargo spaces after delivery with AI support, metal detection for failure in the lower hull etc.) can lead to a quality upgrade. People can then be reorganised in other tasks of higher added value.
  • Efficiency can also be upgraded to improve in precision and time spent on a task, whereas sustainability is the main question for small companies with limited fleets that make strict climax economies.

All in all, employing AI to refine processes and lower costs means IT and ship managers can contribute to higher marginal earnings.”   


A recent survey of global CIOs found that only 4% of respondents had deployed AI. What, in your opinion, will be the factors leading to wide adoption of AI in shipping?

“The complex maritime environment requires a highly capable coordination of mechanical infrastructure (vessel) and labour. Many shareholders prefer the well-known traditional way of shipping. The technological and ethical jump that AI offers still needs investigation. A failure on investments that cost hundreds of millions each, due to machine autonomy is a very risky state.

On the other hand, many processes are inefficient and can be upgraded implementing AI but under human control. There are grounds of improvement but without replacing the human labour extensively. The social cost of the lost jobs will cause crises. Consequently, a collaboration of humans and machines through supported systems of AI can optimally upgrade the performance, and the utility of both the stockholders and shareholders.”


What advice would you give to someone getting started with AI?

  • Make sure you have a good knowledge of programming languages and IT before you get started – this is an essential skill requirement both for attending the course and for those looking to enter the field
  • AI is an amazing new perspective - so have the curiosity and drive to enjoy the journey you are embarking on
  • Imagine the future and if you program it well you can achieve it!

Inspired by this article?

If you’re interested in developing your career with AI, join Dr Loukeris for the Certificate in Artificial Intelligence in Shipping starting in December 2019. In this exclusive distance learning course, Dr Loukeris will give insights on Neural Networks, Heuristics, Evolutionary Computation and Hybrids, AI Solutions to Current Issues in Shipping, Effective AI Applications and more.

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Dr Loukeris is a university lecturer and leading academic in the field of Artificial Intelligence's applications to industry. Alongside teaching at European and American universities, he has also contributed research to international financial conferences.

As a member and co-organiser of numerous financial and technical conferences across Europe, he has been instrumental in the delivery of special sessions covering machine learning, artificial intelligence, neural networks, computational intelligence, robotics and automation. He is the Founder and MD of Lamda Engineers and Loukeris N Business Consultants & Accountants.