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AI sets the tone for Europort Opening Summit

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ROTTERDAM : Exploring artificial intelligence in the maritime industry, the Opening Summit of Europort 2023 set the scene for a four-day event expected to welcome upwards of 25,000 visitors and more than 1,000 exhibitors from over 70 countries.

Proceedings began with an introductory keynote speech and presentation crafted – much to the surprise of the audience – by artificial intelligence. More specifically, the speech was generated by an AI model using input from Constant Brinkman, Co-founder of Dead End Gallery – the world’s first AI-generated art gallery. In a conversation with Summit host Geert Maarse, Brinkman addressed the controversy surrounding AI art, contending that humans can use AI “to make better art”.

The idea that AI can help humans to perform their jobs more effectively was echoed by the speakers in the Opening Summit’s panel discussion. “I fully believe that AI has a huge part to play in the maritime industry – but only with humans at the heart of it,” said Shane McArdle, CEO of Kongsberg Digital. “When you put this technology in people’s hands, that’s when innovation happens.”

Elpi Petraki, President of WISTA International, added, “AI can be used to achieve fast, efficient crew training – for a safer environment on board vessels and to help those supporting from on shore.”

According to Sander Haas, Head of Business Engineering and Transformation at Samskip, the widespread adoption of AI in shipping requires buy-in from the highest levels of the industry. “Leaders of both companies and regulatory bodies need to embrace AI,” he said. “They need to see the possibilities as well as what is needed to bring it in, including new people with new ways of working and thinking.”

Another crucial factor in ensuring the industry can extract AI’s full potential is gender equality, said Petraki: “We need to give women the chance to work with AI; not for the sake of women but for the sake of the industry – because more inclusive teams make better teams.”

While the panellists were largely optimistic about AI in the maritime industry, there were some words of caution from Ilyaz Nasrullah, Digital Strategist & Programme Manager at SMASH!, who urged ship owners to have “realistic expectations” over what the technology can help to achieve. “AI requires a lot of data and money, and only big companies have that,” he added. “Without government intervention, there is no chance for smaller players to catch up.”

Nasrullah’s caution was shared by Nathan Baker, Chief Technology Officer at SeaBird Technologies – the company responsible for the world’s first official electric raceboat championship, E1. Baker, who was joined on stage by SeaBird Founder Sophi Horne, commented: “AI will definitely have a massive impact in the marine industry. However, I would urge companies to take a step back and see where they want to deploy it – because it’s not going to help everywhere.”

With the Europort 2023 Opening Summit showcasing a variety of opinions on artificial intelligence and the opportunities and challenges it presents, the essence of the debate was captured in the AI-generated introductory keynote: “While AI can process vast amounts of data and make predictions, it lacks the empathy, the creativity, and the nuanced decision-making abilities that humans possess.”

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