Horizons #95 –Artificial intelligence (AI) helps reduce grain shipping costs and emissions

28 September, 2023

by Professor Ross Kingwell, AEGIC Chief Economist

Applications of artificial intelligence (AI) are helping reduce grain shipping costs and emissions.

What! Another story about AI! Is it about potential employees using AI to make themselves seem more brilliant than they actually are? Or is it about students cheating on assignments?

No, it’s a story of a commercially useful way of using AI to improve grain transport.

With the power of computer coding, it is now possible to create a digital twin of any ship. Then, drawing on the power of AI, it is possible to forecast in real time what the fuel use and voyage duration of this ‘duplicate vessel’ is when faced with real time weather conditions and weather forecasts. Using AI makes it possible to identify the route and speed of the vessel to ensure grain is delivered safely, at least financial cost and with reduced emissions.

AI algorithms are increasingly sophisticated and accurate, making it possible to capture how a vessel’s performance is influenced by hull design, draft, propeller type, boiler operation, and the role of the auxiliary engine. Applying AI identifies en route actions to improve the vessel’s performance.

Put simply, ships move cargo by burning fuel—called the “bunker.” Shipping companies need to know the quality of the bunker, its cost, source of purchase and rate of use. AI ensures use of bunker and associated emissions are predicted with high accuracy, given information about speed options, local weather, sea conditions and draft. AI identifies how changes in speed and course will lessen the financial cost and emissions of a ship’s journey. One example of an international firm offering these AI based services is ZeroNorth, headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark. Its services help vessel owners and managers to operate their vessels more efficiently and reduce emissions.

For a grain farmer or grain exporter, it’s useful to know that applying AI technology to sea transport is an example of how scientific innovation can help lower transport costs whilst simultaneously reducing emissions, adding to the sustainability credentials of the grain export.

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Horizons: the AEGIC Economics and Market Insights blog

Expert grains industry analysis and commentary from AEGIC’s Economics and Market Insight Team on a range of big-picture topics that affect Australia’s export grains sector.

AEGIC is an initiative of the Western Australian State Government and Grains Australia.


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