At a Mersey Maritime event at London International Shipping Week it was revealed a new AI supercomputing platform in Liverpool city region would be open to local maritime firms. Tony McDonough reports
A new AI supercomputing platform is being set up in Liverpool city region and will open up access to firms in the local £4bn maritime sector.
At a Mersey Maritime event at London International Shipping Week (LISW), Kevin Smith, founder and chief technology officer of the Maritime Digital Hub (MDH), announced a new Runcorn-based AI supercomputing platform that is focused on encouraging open access and sharing of ideas.
Supercomputers are an invaluable resource when it comes to testing new innovations. Their huge power in being able to process large amounts of data can accelerate the testing of new ideas and processes. However, access to such facilities is often limited to academics and organisations with larger R&D budgets. This is due to the high investment costs in both technology and expertise.
Mersey Maritime, which represents hundreds of city region maritime businesses, is leading the drive to both decarbonise and encourage the use of technologies such as automation and artificial intelligence (AI).
The MDH is designed to bridge the gap between the worlds of maritime and technology, helping to enable conversations about the unique challenges and opportunities. Mr Smith said that by opening up access to the supercomputer, they wanted to encourage organisations and academia to share knowledge in order to meet some of these challenges together.
Addressing the event at LISW, he said: “The MDH is a community whose focus is to help deliver sustainable and socially responsible changes. The goal with this project is to create an environment that is pre-competitive and where people develop and share ideas.
“In the aerospace sector they do exactly that. They share information freely. They have an open-knowledge mindset. And that is the key to this – not hiding new innovations behind a paywall.
“We have formed a partnership with Mersey Maritime as they are real thought leaders when it comes to innovation. Maritime is people centric and will always be so. We don’t want to replace people. The captain does not just steer the ship and will always be needed.
“What we are creating is a safe laboratory environment where people will be able to test their innovations and share the results.”
Also addressing the Mersey Maritime session was Nigel Quinn, chief executive of Bibby Marine, a subsidiary of one of Liverpool’s oldest companies, Bibby Line Group. Bibby Marine operates two offshore service vessels.
They service wind farms which are, of course, emission free. But the vessels themselves run on fossil fuels and Bibby Marine is aiming to develop a new vessel that will use alternative fuels or technologies. He said: “We have to decarbonise our assets – we have to be sustainable.”
Between then, Bibby Marine’s two Wavemaster offshore vessels annually burn carbon equivalent to 18 million miles driven by petrol car or the energy required for 800 average homes. It is looking to build a prototype vessel it is calling Wavemaster Zero C, which will utilise different methods, such as hydrogen, to reduce emissions.
“We know we have to change and as an industry we clearly want to ” added Mr Quinn. “We secured funds from the MarRI-UK project to look at alternative fuel solutions. What we know is that there is no single silver bullet. When we are developing a carbon-neutral vessel we are looking at coming up with multiple solutions based on the fact of different applicational needs, as of right now we see 2 or 3 being suitable and viable for our customers’ needs.”
Chris Shirling-Rooke, chief executive of Mersey Maritime, added: “Today’s event illustrated how forward-thinking, dynamic and innovative our maritime sector is. Leaders in this sector recognise that if our industry is to prosper it needs to fully embrace sustainability.
“The speakers at the event demonstrated how the maritime businesses are truly at the cutting edge of decarbonisation and digital innovation. And Mersey Maritime will be here to support them on that journey.”
The event also heard from Alex Lawson, hedging director at Western Union Business Solutions, Alex Pepper, group head of environmental & energy for Peel Ports Group and Richard Gwilliam, co-founder of Geollect (Geospatial Intelligence and Analysis).