Research collaboration in Östergötland to increase shipping efficiency

Linköping University and the Swedish Maritime Administration have established research collaboration to develop more sustainable, efficient and safe shipping operations based on such technology as artificial intelligence and interactive visualisation. 

Women infront of computer screens at sea traffic hub. The aims for the traffic centres run by the Swedish Maritime Administration are to improve safety and efficiency for vessels at sea, and to protect the environment. Tobias Fälth/Sjöfartsverket

Around 90% of all international goods are first transported across the seas, before being loaded onto trucks, trains or aircraft for further distribution in Sweden. Freight within Sweden, however, seldom uses maritime transport, even though ships are the most energy-efficient method relative to volume, and most Swedish cities are on the coast.

“There’s a huge unused potential for maritime transport to relieve pressure on the overloaded railway network and reduce road congestion. We and the Swedish Maritime Administration will benefit from each other’s expertise, and can bring huge advantages to society”, says Martin Rantzer, head of the Department of Science and Technology at Linköping University.

The aim of the research collaboration between the Swedish Maritime Administration and Linköping University is to digitalise and make more efficient the working methods used at four of the vessel traffic service centres that each year manage thousands of traffic situations in Sweden’s busiest maritime areas. Anders Johannesson, senior adviser at the Swedish Maritime Administration, believes that the development of the service centres is an important step towards making Swedish shipping operations safer and more competitive.

“The work and research with Linköping University will in the long run not only prevent maritime accidents, but also increase our expertise in the field”, says Anders Johannesson.

The collaboration will initially encompass four research projects in which artificial intelligence and other technologies will be used to follow vessels automatically and warn the traffic centres when deviations occur. Three of the projects are led by researchers at Linköping University, in particular at the Department of Computer and Information Science and the Department of Science and Technology.

“The new technology, in particular artificial intelligence, has a great potential to make maritime traffic more efficient”, says Magnus Bång, associate professor in the Department of Computer and Information Science at Linköping University.

The research will focus on several fields – such as machine learning, logistics, optimisation and cybersecurity. To put it simply, it’s a case of making some operations at the Swedish Maritime Administration easier and more efficient. An example is how to manage huge amounts of traffic information, and how to use it efficiently. Jonas Lundberg, professor of human-centred design at Linköping University, points out:

“It’s important that both the data and the automatically generated support information for important decisions can be clearly presented for humans. This is why we are working with how information can be efficiently visualised, while at the same time automatically analysed.”

Brief facts – collaborative research projects

Initially, four research projects will be conducted within the collaboration between the Swedish Maritime Administration and Linköping University, three of them led by researchers at Linköping University:

  • Automated Monitoring (AutoMon): Artificial intelligence can detect deviations from normal traffic patterns, even outside of the areas governed by the traffic centre. Accidents at sea and across large areas can in this way be prevented.
  • Sensitive Automation (F-AUTO): Systems use artificial intelligence to analyse traffic in real time and warn the operator of potential conflicts that the operator has not dealt with
  • VASA: The project is to digitalise and make more efficient the process of approach to Swedish ports, using interactive visualisation and artificial intelligence.
  • RESKILL: To increase operator expertise using a new concept for training with interactive visualisation. The training system is to support the operators’ ability to understand and recognise situations in which the automatic systems have not functioned as expected.

Brief facts – Traffic centres run by the Swedish Maritime Administration (VTS)

The traffic centres run by the Swedish Maritime Administration are known as VTS (Vessel Traffic Service) centres. This is a collective term for maritime traffic information and services to vessels in busy or environmentally sensitive areas. The aims are to improve safety and efficiency for vessels at sea, and to protect the environment.

Translated by George Farrants

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