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Shipowners not ready to give up control to intelligent vessels

Yarden Gross, CEO of Orca AI

Shipowners are said to be hesitant to
relinquish control of their vessels in favor of autonomous solutions, as they
trust their captains and crews.

In general, the shipping industry’s approach
to new technologies has been described as “conservative“,
especially when it comes to autonomous solutions that could theoretically
replace the crew.
This has led to the slow adoption of
solutions that are vital to reducing collisions, Yarden Gross, CEO of Orca AI
revealed in an interview with World Maritime News.
In order to overcome the maritime industry’s
fear of new technology adoption, the company has designed the Orca AI system to
be “a tool that the crews can use, not to replace the crew.”
Established in 2018, Orca AI has the vision
to reduce human-caused errors through intelligent automated vessels. The
company was founded by Yarden Gross and Dor Raviv, who both have served in the
navy and know the industry and its needs.
“We realized that despite the technological
advances being adopted for other modes of transport, the shipping industry is
lagging behind. This is due to a variety of factors, including that the
maritime environment requires in navigation and collision avoidance technology,
which need to be specifically suited to the industry and that’s what we seek to
Gross said.
“We want to help create an ecosystem that
will lead us to autonomous ships while keeping in mind that we’re not quite
there yet.”
He added that there are things that need to
be done to improve safety now — providing collision avoidance technology that
works for ships.
As informed, 3,000 marine collisions occur
each year and more than 75% are due to errors in human judgment. According to
Gross, this is alarming as current navigational tools require a significant
reliance on human judgment, which leaves room for costly error.
“Our immediate goal was to create a solution
that would help ships use AI safely navigate zero and extremely low visibility
conditions and crowded waterways, where the majority of collisions take place.
Our solution minimizes the opportunity for errors in judgment, thereby reducing
the chances of collisions.”
Orca AI system
Specifically, the Orca AI system uses sensors
already on board a vessel and adds separate ones as well, such as thermal and
low-light cameras, and feeds the information into an AI-powered navigation
The system was designed to be easy to use and
intuitive, given that the crew manning the bridge is occupied with a myriad of
responsibilities, so the system enables them to make smarter navigation
decisions more easily. There is no training required to operate the system and
it doesn’t add extra work for the crew, Yarden said.
As visibility issues are common and a big
contributing factor in naval collisions, Orca AI founders said they decided to
tackle that issue right from the start with sensors designed for situations
with poor visibility. Orca AI is currently operational and providing crews with
crucial information in piloted installations on board vessels. Those pilots are
continuing as the company develops new versions of the system.
Orca AI has been installed and piloted
onboard several car carriers owned by Ray Carriers, the company’s first client
and key investor.
Data from the voyages that have been taken
since the system installation are still being analyzed, but so far everything
is looking promising, Orca AI’s co-founder said.
The Orca AI system can be used on any vessel
– size is not an issue, as the sensor payload is not very large or intrusive.
However, the company is focusing on larger vessels first, as the challenges of
collision avoidance and costs of collisions are most pronounced for this class
of ship.
When asked what are the prerequisite for the
installation of the Orca AI solution, Gross pointed out that there are no
problems installing the system on any type of ship. The installation is said to
be straightforward and the system is easy to integrate on the bridge, so the
age of the ship has no impact on the process.
AI and the maritime industry
Several autonomous ship projects are
currently being developed around the world. As informed, Orca AI is in
discussions with the large technology providers that are building the
eco-system for the future of autonomous ships. Gross noted that these companies
understand that they cannot build everything by themselves, so they are seeking
partners to collaborate with.
“An autonomous ship is like a puzzle, there
are many crucial pieces that all need to fit together, and we are trying to
build the best technology in the world for one of the most important pieces of
the puzzle,” 
according to Gross.
Artificial Intelligence, which has been the
buzzword over the recent time, is becoming increasingly important for the
maritime industry as well.
“AI is a tool for solving problems that have
been hard to solve until now. For the maritime industry, it is enabling us to
tackle issues such as detection of ships and other items on the water, and
alerting and assisting the captain and the crew with the navigation of the
Gross said, adding that AI
is also helping solve many more problems in the industry such as logistics,
predictive maintenance, internal operations, etc.
“I think that for certain use cases AI is
already able to provide real value, and as the maritime industry continues to
adopt AI solutions and develop them, we will see increased efficiency and
safety, as well as seeing a reduction of costs across the board,” 
Gross concluded.
Orca AI’s key steps for moving forward will
be to continue installation of the company’s system onboard more ships, which
has so far proved to be a major success. Additional partnerships with other
shipping companies are currently in the works and Orca AI is ramping up
production to meet the growing demand.
World Maritime News 

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