Hong Kong-based Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL ) has partnered with Microsoft Research Asia (MSRA) to explore the potential of using artificial intelligence (AI) to improve network operations and efficiencies for the shipping industry.

The partnership is set to train more than 200 AI developers over the next year. As part of the training, machine learning and intensive training sessions will be conducted at Hong Kong Science Park.

OOCL chief information officer Steve Siu said: “With MSRA’s efforts and expertise, we expect to save around $10m in operation costs annually by applying the AI research and techniques for optimising shipping network operations from our most recent 15-week engagement.

“Moving forward, we will embark on an 18-month joint-partnership in research and development to apply deep learning and reinforcement learning in shipping network operations.”

OOCL further aims to boost digital transformation within the shipping industry, with the latest partnership. The company has more than 1,000 developers based throughout San Jose, US; Hong Kong; Zhuhai, Shanghai, China; and Manila, Philippines.

“Embracing AI is a complex business challenge in digital transformation.”

OOCL previously adopted a hybrid Cloud infrastructure with auto-switching and auto-scaling across its businesses and machine learning. The company has more than 1,000 developers based in San Jose, US; Hong Kong; Shanghai, China; and Manila, Philippines.

The company currently processes and evaluates data from more than 30 million vessels every month. It has also developed predictive analytics on vessel schedules and berth activities by leveraging AI and machine learning.

MSRA managing director Dr Hsiao-Wuen Hon said: “Microsoft’s AI offering is a combination of technology, business model, and user experience.

“Shipping network operations involve multiple parties and variables that can change at any moment. Embracing AI is a complex business challenge in digital transformation.

“MSRA’s AI research experts have joined forces with OOCL to optimise its existing shipping operations using deep and reinforcement learning, an R&D area that needs top AI researchers and domain experts for business impact validation.”

MSRA primarily carries out both basic and applied research as part of Microsoft’s long-term strategy and future computing vision.