UK backs AI and smart shipping solutions with fresh funding

The UK Government has launched the Smart Shipping Acceleration Fund to drive maritime innovation and harness the benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) for the maritime sector.

UK Government

On April 22, 2024, UK Maritime Minister Lord Davies of Gower revealed an £8 million ($9.9 million) in funding to support studies related to smart shipping solutions. These include self-driving boats for streamlined port operations, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and other innovations.

Specifically, the Smart Shipping Acceleration Fund will kick start feasibility studies to develop smart shipping technologies such as AI, robotics, and autonomous vessels.

Successful ports will be able to use AI to detect safety hazards, optimize port activities and reduce their environmental footprint.

“Using AI and cutting-edge technology to make boats smarter and transform port operations is part of our plan to decarbonise shipping, enhance safety for our seafarers and help grow the economy. AI has the potential to revolutionise the sector, create jobs and support the economy,” Maritime Minister, Lord Davies, said.

The funding comes from the wider £206 million UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions (UK SHORE) program, announced in March 2022. The UK government launched UK SHORE to tackle shipping emissions and advance the UK towards a sustainable shipping future. The goal is to accelerate research into and development of clean maritime technologies and create skilled jobs across the country.

UK SHORE implements a comprehensive research and development program, including a multi-year Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition (CMDC).

The competition will be managed by the delivery partner Innovate UK.

“The UK is recognised as a global leader in digital technology and this new fund will enhance that reputation in the maritime sector too. Innovate UK are excited to see industry-led consortia pioneer smart shipping feasibility studies that will demonstrate a clear commercial pathway and positive environmental impact in the near future,” Mike Biddle, Executive Director for Net Zero at Innovate UK said.

“Artificial intelligence will deliver real change in shipping with an important role, alongside the sector’s workforce, in greater use of autonomous vessels, automation and data analysis. These technologies will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve supply chains and generate jobs,” Peter Aylott, Director of Policy at UK Chamber of Shipping, said.

Recently, as part of the CMDC program, the UK launched a bidding process for the £1.5 million ($1.9 million) funding aimed at establishing zero-emission shipping routes to and from the UK. 

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