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Maersk to Test AI-Powered Situational Awareness System Aboard a Containership

Maersk Line will test what is claimed to be the world’s first AI-powered situational awareness system aboard one of its containerships.

The world’s largest shipping company has partnered with Boston-based Sea Machines Robotics to trial the tech company’s industry-leading perception and situational awareness technology aboard one of Maersk’s newbuild ice-class container ships.

“The deal is significant not only to Sea Machines and Maersk, but also to the larger maritime industry as the installation marks first time computer vision, Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and perception software will be utilized aboard a container vessel to augment and upgrade transit operations,” Sea Machines said in a press release.

The company says their system uses artificial intelligence (AI) to improve at-sea situational awareness, object identification and tracking capabilities. Similar to Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) commonly found in automobiles, Sea Machines’ system uses advanced sensors to collect a continuous stream of information from a vessel’s surroundings, identify and track potential conflicts, and display information in the wheelhouse, facilitating safer and more efficient maritime operations.

“We are extremely proud that the world’s largest shipping company selected Sea Machines as their advanced perception and autonomous technology provider,” explained Michael Johnson, founder and CEO, Sea Machines. “This partnership with Maersk marks our first foray into the shipping sector and allows us to positively contribute towards the operator’s technology goals.”

“Our team first met Sea Machines around three years ago when they were developing the concepts of their first autonomous systems, and already we were impressed with their technical capability, planned product path, and practical understanding of the future needs of the marine market,” said P. Michael A. Rodey, senior innovation manager, A.P. Moller-Maersk. “For this container ship situational awareness program, we aim to prove the technology increases our safety, efficiency and reliability. Autonomous vessels are not an end goal for Maersk nor is unmanned vessels; what is more of interest is the technology along the journey and the value it brings.”

Sea Machines Robotics was founded in 2015 and builds autonomous vessel software and systems with the goal of enhancing the safety, efficiency and performance of ships, workboats and commercial vessels. The company recently introduced the world’s first industrial-grade control system providing autonomous and remote vessel control for workboats and other vessels. It is also actively developing advanced perception technology and navigation assistance technology for a range of vessel types.

The first ship in Maersk’s new ice-class containerships, named Vistula Maersk, made its maiden call recently in St. Petersburg, Russia after sailing from Rotterdam. The vessel is first of seven purpose-built newbuilds to serve the North Sea and Baltic Sea for Seago Line, the intra-Europe and short-sea carrier of Maersk. The vessels are touted as the world’s largest ice-class containerships. 

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