- Operations - Britain backs AI maritime projects

By SuperyachtNews

Britain backs AI maritime projects

British-based companies can now apply for funding for AI initiatives that enhance safety, efficiency and environmental sustainability in UK waters  …

UK-based organisations can apply for a share of up to £8 million to pioneer innovative smart shipping technologies for maritime decarbonisation through the Smart Shipping Acceleration Fund. Maritime Minister Lord Davies, speaking in Southampton today (22 April 2024), says that the initiative aims to position the UK as a leader in cutting-edge maritime technology. The funding is provided by the British Department for Transport (DfT).

Commitment from bodies such as the British Government to AI maritime projects will have substantial implications on the superyacht sector's future, especially as technologies continue to rapidly progress. With a focus on streamlining vessel operations, optimising port and marina logistics and advancing environmental sustainability, these initiatives could reshape the industry, offering new avenues for innovation and growth in the near future.

“Using AI and advanced technology to enhance vessel intelligence and streamline port operations is crucial for our strategy to decarbonise shipping, enhance seafarer safety, and support economic growth,” Lord Davies says. “AI holds the potential to revolutionise the sector, create jobs, and boost the economy. AI innovations are already transforming our approach to combating diseases like cancer, improving public services, and increasing productivity. It stands as the defining technology of our era.”

The Smart Shipping Acceleration Fund will initiate feasibility studies to develop smart shipping technologies, including AI, robotics, and autonomous vessels. Successful projects will require matching funding, leveraging additional investments from the private sector. The funding will support studies into emerging AI technologies, ranging from self-navigating yachts and tenders to ports using automated systems.

“Today’s funding marks a significant step in driving cutting-edge UK technology forward and bringing projects from concept to reality,” says Peter Aylott, Director of Policy at the UK Chamber of Shipping. “Artificial intelligence will bring tangible transformation to shipping, playing a crucial role alongside the sector's workforce in the increased adoption of autonomous vessels, automation, and data analysis. These technologies will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve supply chains, and create jobs.”

“We have invested over £3.5 billion in technology over the past decade and are currently doubling the size of the ‘Incubator for AI’ team, recruiting top British talent to drive AI integration across the public sector,” Lord Davies adds.

The funding for the Smart Shipping Acceleration Fund comes from the broader £206 million UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions (UK SHORE) programme, announced in March 2022. UK SHORE has implemented a comprehensive research and development programme, including a multi-year Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition (CMDC), to address supply and demand challenges in shipbuilding and promote the construction of greener vessels, from cruise liners to tankers and superyachts.

Lord Davies visited Ocean Infinity’s Southampton site today, a marine robotics company. The company recently secured funding from the UK SHORE programme to undertake pioneering projects in maritime decarbonisation, including a share of £4.4 million to develop future propulsion systems.

This competition will be managed by the delivery partner Innovate UK.

“The UK is recognised as a global leader in digital technology, and this new fund will enhance that reputation in the maritime sector too,” comments Mike Biddle, Executive Director for Net Zero at Innovate UK. “Innovate UK is excited to see industry-led consortia pioneer smart shipping feasibility studies that will demonstrate a clear commercial pathway and positive environmental impact in the near future. This represents the latest investment as part of our key partnership with DfT around the delivery of UK SHORE to boost innovation across the UK’s vibrant maritime sector.”

To enter the competition and secure funding, a company’s proposal must first conduct a technical and economic feasibility study associated with the development and demonstration of on-vessel technologies, infrastructure technologies or both. The project’s total costs must be between £75,000 and £750,000.

The competition closes at 11 am UK time on 26 June 2024.

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