The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST) released a report titled, Disruptive Technologies in the Marine Sector: 2023 and Beyond, based on a survey and consultation exercise with the chairs of the Institute’s Special Interest Groups and Technical Leadership Board. 

AI was identified as a disruptive technology, alongside autonomy and technologies for energy transition. This includes electrical power and propulsion for marine engineers and hull grooming systems as well as performance monitoring within biofouling.

A disruptive technology is technology which can transform the way people and businesses operate, it includes new innovations and solutions to challenges. The technologies challenge current operations which creates competition. 

A spokesperson for the IMarEST Policy and Technical Team, speaking with Ship Technology: “There is consensus that artificial intelligence has the potential to transform maritime transport and marine science.

“The sector looks set to benefit from increased efficiency, improved safety, greater interconnectivity, and being better able to meet the environmental goals our biosphere needs, including the intent to achieve net zero carbon. The increased use and implementation of AI systems is likely to disrupt and change the roles of professionals working in the marine sector.”

AI and autonomy support sustainability by improving efficiency. The report suggests that this is possible through consistency of operations or reacting quicker than humans to issues and hazards. IMarEST expects that humans can identify these issues and solve problems effectively with an interpretation of inputs.

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The spokesperson said: “In shipping, applications range from voyage planning, route forecasting and optimising fuel consumption, to emission reduction, autonomous shipping, and predictive maintenance.

“In the marine sector generally, many disciplines, such as ocean science, benefit from AI tools extracting valuable information and prediction modelling from big data sets, which is already happening to an extent that has not been seen before.”

In terms of autonomy, many suggest that disruption could arise from the progression towards a zero-engineering. Disruptive technologies relating to the energy transition include the safe move to alternative fuels and the use of new equipment and processes. In addition, sustainable energy must be considered economically and technically possible.

The report also addresses the role of regulations for new technologies in the marine sector. The research in the report suggests that there is extensive work to be done in terms of developing AI and policies and regulations which will facilitate it and reduce its risks. Technology is developing at a fast pace and for this reason, regulators are struggling to stay ahead.

A spokesperson added: “This report is part of our work examining the challenges faced by the sector over the coming decade. By sharing the insight of our members, many of whom are working at the cutting edge of change in the sector, we help those in the sector anticipate future skills requirements.  

“This is vital if the marine sector is going to be able to apply current and future technologies and achieve environmentally acceptable and commercially sustainable outcomes.”

In the report, IMarEST encourages greater diversity and inclusion as this will encourage innovation and employee satisfaction which reduces staff turnover and the loss of expertise.

According to IMarEST, skills for AI and autonomy include willingness to change and enthusiasm for innovation while the energy transition will require multi-disciplinary and strategic thinking, hazardous process and safety training and design and integration in a systems context.

An increase in awareness of the possibilities and opportunities created by these technologies will allow people and businesses to embrace the technology and utilise it in an efficient way.