Augmented Reality in Shipping and Maritime Industry

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Image used for representational purposes only (Sea News File Photo)

Augmented Reality in shipping and maritime is all set to revamp the infrastructure by easing overall processes. From highly innovative maintenance and inspection to effective effective supply chain management, AR has made things simple and easy to optimize. Augmented reality is a cutting edge technology that merges the real and digital world, creating a mixed reality. This capability has already revolutionized world’s major industries and shipping industry is next in the queue to take a giant leap towards digitalization and accelerate its working to a great extent with the help of augmented reality.

Training: The UK maritime industry announced using virtual and augmented reality for seafarer training purpose. A similar step was taken by the Singapore Maritime Institute along with Singapore Polytechnic by setting up Centre of Excellence in Maritime Safety, where augmented reality is used for training and development. The benefit of using the augmented reality for training purpose is that it can introduce real-life experiences into the training environment, making the learning process more real and interesting. In addition to making the training more appealing, the learning process becomes safer as the trainees can practice learning to overcome complex and risky situations, becoming near perfect before they become a part of real-life scenarios at the vessels.

Maintenance and Inspection: Maintenance and inspection tasks can also be eased up with augmented reality. It was way back in 2009 that Columbia University in collaboration with US Marine Corps Mechanics carried out research that examined the effectiveness of AR on vehicle maintenance. 47% of the defects were detected and repaired faster during the research phase. Fast forward to the year 2019, a Lübeck-based ferry operator TT-Lines tested a service and maintenance idea that utilizes AR to connect ship-shore crew. Voice-controlled AR wearables and remote guidance software were deployed and were monitored in real-time by Wärtsilä Seals and Bearings, a technology provider in the field. This test has almost put a virtual engineer on the vessel. To improve repair and maintenance operations of stern-tube equipment, Wärtsilä has also introduced augmented reality and smart glasses in its seals & bearings. Through this, the crew at the site will be in a position to send and receive visual images and written instructions right in front of them on see-through displays along with carrying out inspection, on-site machining, and shaft straightening without the physical presence of a technician at the site.

Productivity and Operations: The augmented reality has unlimited possibilities in increasing the productivity and operations of the shipping sector. For instance, the crew at the ship can take look at the entire ship in the form of a 3D model on a table right in front of them. The 3D model can assist in analyzing the vessel from all the angles, highlighting the areas of concern, displaying the main engine, etc. Hence, the interaction becomes more realistic and natural than watching the general agreement drawing plan (GA) on a screen. Navigational Safety Another useful aid that augmented reality can offer to the maritime sector is in electronic navigation and enhancing navigational safety. In 2018, FLIR delivered a marine industry first augmented reality navigation technology that enhances water awareness. The ClearCruise AR can be used to make complex navigation simpler and understand high-traffic situations by accurately displaying navigation markers, AIS traffic, objects and waypoints for instant recognition.

Shipbuilding and Design Review: Shipbuilding and design review are other areas where augmented reality can prove beneficial. The virtual models can replace the real ones and evaluate the design at early stages. This can help in reducing the cost of shipbuilding by allowing the designers to analyze, update or alter the designs hence quickening the whole process and achieving the desired results with much fewer efforts. Augmented reality is an interesting technology that has multiple applications in the maritime sector. The need of the hour is to carry out additional researches to uncover its full potential and harness its benefits to optimize efficiency, safety, productivity and skills of seafarers across the globe.

The Way Ahead for AR: AR is going to be the next big wave of change in the shipping industry. AR is more than a simple displaying technology. It also represents a new type of real-time natural user interface for human interaction with objects and digital devices. Over the last decade, the use of advanced information technologies in shipping industry has greatly improved efficiency, reliability and security. AR has the potential to further optimize operations in the industry as the technology can play a part in a number of steps of the shipping value chain.

Sea News Feature, September 15

Baibhav Mishra
Author: Baibhav Mishra