“AI will have a transformative impact on our lives”

Yeşim Yeliz Egeli

Photos: Ekrem Şerif Egeli

Artificial intelligence technologies have begun to have a significant impact on our lives, and the maritime industry has also started to be affected by these transformations.  We conducted an interview with Piri Reis University Rector Prof. Dr. Nafiz Arıca about the effects of artificial intelligence technology in the maritime sector and how to create a maritime education curriculum that incorporates developments in artificial intelligence

How will Artificial Intelligence, as one of the leading disruptive technologies today, affect our lives?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is expected to have a transformative impact on our lives across on a wide range of areas, from personal convenience and professional productivity to health and education. 

Virtual assistants, home automation systems, personalized shopping and entertainment are some examples, which improve the quality of our lives.  Content moderation and personalized feeds in social media platforms and real-time language translation tools are other examples in social interaction and communication between people. Early detection of diseases, personalized medicine, robotic surgery and healthcare monitoring devices provide support to healthcare. In education and learning, adaptive learning platforms and tutoring systems create personalized learning experiences to humans. Autonomous vehicles promise to reduce accidents, lower transportation costs, and increase mobility for those who unable to drive. These examples can be given as artificial intelligence applications that are and will directly affect our daily lives. I am not going into the details of these applications, because we have all started to use AI in some way in some part of ​​our lives. 

Nafiz Arıca AI will have a transformative impact on our lives

I cannot help but mention chatbots, which have been on the world’s agenda for the last few years. Natural language processing chatbots, developed with Generative AI methods, allow us to have human-like conversations. For example, the AI tool can answer questions and help us with tasks such as creating emails, articles, and code. Even this interview may have been done with chatbots!

“AI continues to evolve and integrate into our daily lives”

In professional life, job automation and creation of new jobs are the main concern. AI can perform repetitive and manual tasks which traditionally performed by humans. This could lead to people working in industries such as manufacturing, transportation and customer service losing their jobs. However, AI will also lead to the emergence of new professions. It creates new job opportunities in areas such as artificial intelligence development, data analysis and cyber security. It should also be stated that; tasks that require human creativity, emotional intelligence, and complex problem solving are less likely to be automated. Therefore, there will be a growing need to upskill and reskill the workforce to adapt to the changes in business caused by AI.

AI applications also bring up important issues such as data privacy, security and ethical use of artificial intelligence. As AI continues to evolve and integrate into our daily lives in the coming years, balancing the benefits with these challenges will be crucial. 

How do you evaluate the effects of Artificial Intelligence in the maritime industry?

AI applications will have a profound impact on the maritime industry. This impact will generally be towards increasing efficiency, safety and sustainability. The first example is autonomous shipping, which uses artificial intelligence for route planning, obstacle detection and decision-making. Autonomous ships reduce human error, lower operating costs, and increase efficiency.

Another example is predictive maintenance through AI-supported monitoring on ships. These devices collect data on machine and equipment performance and analyze this data to predict when maintenance is required. Reducing fuel consumption through engine performance and route optimization are other important AI applications that save costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

AI can provide real-time navigation assistance by optimizing routes based on current conditions and advanced weather forecasts. AI-powered smart ports increase port efficiency, reduce congestion, and improve turnaround times.

Nafiz Arıca AI will have a transformative impact on our lives

AI can analyze historical data to predict and prevent potential safety hazards, such as equipment malfunctions or adverse weather conditions. Thus, it reduces accidents and increases overall safety by improving safety protocols both at sea and in ports.

Cargo optimization, supply chain optimization, crew planning and environmental monitoring are other examples of artificial intelligence applications in the maritime industry.

Successful implementation of AI in maritime requires addressing challenges such as data quality, cybersecurity and the need for skilled personnel. International regulations regarding navigational safety and data privacy are particularly important for implementation. Finally, I would like to say that the initial costs for the implementation of Artificial Intelligence technologies may be high and will require careful planning and gradual investments. I think it is vital to take action as soon as possible instead of postponing these investment costs, otherwise companies that fall behind Artificial Intelligence technologies, which are advancing at an incredible speed, will face the danger of extinction.

Do you have any predictions about how Artificial Intelligence will affect the maritime professionals in the short and long term?

In 5 to 10 years, as the level of autonomy of ships increases, and advanced monitoring systems become more common, the need for traditional deck and engine room crew may decrease. Automation in cargo handling could lead to a reduced need for manual labor in ports. AI-driven supply chain and logistics management systems might reduce the demand for human logistics coordinators.

Crew members will need to adapt to working alongside autonomous systems, focusing more on oversight and decision-making rather than manual control. Remote operators and technicians who oversee and manage autonomous vessels from shore-based control centers will become more prevalent. These roles require a strong understanding of AI systems, remote monitoring technologies, and emergency response protocols. 

Nafiz Arıca AI will have a transformative impact on our lives

In the long term, with the maturation of autonomous navigation technology, the roles of human navigators and pilots could be significantly diminished. Advanced predictive maintenance technologies may eventually reduce the need for a large maintenance workforce.

While some traditional roles may diminish, new opportunities, such as AI and robotics specialists, data analysts and cybersecurity experts, will arise for those who adapt to the changing landscape. Investing in education and training for current and future workers will be essential to navigate this transition successfully. 

How might artificial intelligence applications affect the shipbuilding industry?

AI applications will significantly transform the shipbuilding industry as well. In ship design, AI can assist in creating optimal ship designs by analyzing a wide range of parameters and constraints, leading to more efficient and innovative ship structures. In addition, AI-driven simulations can predict how designs will perform under various conditions, reducing the need for physical prototypes and extensive testing. In production and manufacturing, AI-powered robots can perform repetitive and hazardous tasks. AI systems can monitor production in real-time, identifying defects or deviations from specifications. AI can analyze data from sensors on ships to predict when maintenance is needed, preventing breakdowns and reducing downtime. 

The introduction of AI in shipbuilding is likely to lead to shifts in the job market within the industry. In the short term, positions involving repetitive, manual tasks are likely to be automated. Workers in these roles may face displacement unless they reskill for more technologically advanced positions. There will be a growing demand for technicians skilled in operating and maintaining AI and robotic systems, leading to new opportunities for those with the right training. In the long term, engineers and designers will increasingly collaborate with AI tools, shifting from traditional design methods to overseeing AI-driven processes. Maintenance professionals will need to become adept at predictive maintenance technologies.

How can the maritime industry benefit from the use of “big data”? Which departments are likely to benefit the most from this development?

First, we should not forget that; Artificial Intelligence performs the necessary functions by learning from big data. Therefore, big data revolutionize the maritime industry by enhancing operational efficiency, safety, maintenance, and regulatory compliance. The departments that stand to benefit the most include operations and logistics, maintenance and engineering, safety and security, supply chain and cargo management, and environmental compliance. By leveraging big data, the maritime industry can achieve significant cost savings, improve service delivery, and enhance overall operational effectiveness.

How can a quantum-supported artificial intelligence modeling that can effectively use “big data” information, which includes all factors in the maritime field, change world trade if it works efficiently?

Quantum-supported AI models can process vast amounts of data at unprecedented speeds, leading to more accurate and timely decision-making. Efficiently utilizing big data can streamline global supply chains, reduce transit times, and minimize operational costs, thus transforming world trade by making it more resilient, responsive, and sustainable. Quantum AI can also enhance risk management by predicting and mitigating potential disruptions in the supply chain. This can lead to more reliable and efficient global trade, increasing the competitiveness of maritime businesses.

Will the transition to AI models mean the end of traditional shipping altogether?

No. While AI models will significantly transform traditional shipping practices, it is unlikely to completely replace traditional shipping. Instead, AI will augment and enhance existing processes, making them more efficient and reliable. Human oversight and decision-making will remain crucial, particularly in complex and unpredictable scenarios where human intuition and experience are invaluable. AI will serve as a powerful tool to support human operators, providing them with real-time data and insights to make informed decisions. The future of shipping will likely involve a hybrid approach, combining the strengths of AI with human expertise.

How long will it take for these systems, which have very high costs, to pay off?

The pay-off period for high-cost AI systems depends on various factors, including the scale of implementation, the specific use cases, and the initial investment. Generally, companies can expect to see returns within three to five years, as AI systems start delivering cost savings, efficiency improvements, and revenue enhancements. The speed of return on investment can be accelerated by prioritizing high-impact areas and ensuring effective implementation and integration of AI systems.

Nafiz Arıca AI will have a transformative impact on our lives

What are the security risks of being fully integrated into these systems?

Fully integrating AI systems introduces several security risks. The first risk is cyber attack. Increased vulnerability to cyber attacks targeting AI systems and the data they process. AI systems can become targets for hackers looking to exploit vulnerabilities. Another one is data privacy. Risks related to unauthorized access and misuse of sensitive data. Ensuring data privacy and compliance with regulations is critical. The last risk can be system reliability. Dependence on AI systems may lead to significant disruptions in case of system failures or malfunctions. Ensuring the reliability and robustness of AI systems is essential to prevent operational downtime.

How long will it take to meet the need for qualified employees that will arise when artificial intelligence is used and “big data” is evaluated? Should countries and companies prepare for this future now?

Meeting the demand for qualified employees skilled in AI and big data will take several years. It requires a concerted effort from educational institutions, governments, and industry stakeholders to develop relevant training programs and curricula. Countries and companies should proactively invest in education and workforce development to ensure they are prepared for the future. Initiatives such as partnerships with academic institutions, continuous professional development programs, and promoting STEM education can help bridge the skills gap.

How will the differences between countries and companies’ specific AI-based software affect maritime trade?

Differences in AI-based software capabilities and implementation across countries and companies can create disparities in operational efficiency, competitiveness, and regulatory compliance. Standardization and interoperability initiatives will be crucial to mitigate these differences and ensure a level playing field in maritime trade. Collaborative efforts to establish common standards and frameworks for AI in the maritime industry can facilitate smoother integration and enhance overall efficiency.

Could the widespread use of artificial intelligence in the shipbuilding industry and maritime trade lead to legal vulnerabilities? What measures should be taken to prevent these vulnerabilities from occurring?

The widespread use of AI can indeed lead to legal vulnerabilities, such as liability issues, intellectual property disputes, and compliance with international regulations. To prevent these vulnerabilities, it is essential to establish clear legal frameworks, standardize regulations, and promote transparency and accountability in AI deployment. Legal measures should be put in place to address issues such as data ownership, liability for AI decisions, and cross-border data flows.

How effective can the use of artificial intelligence in the selection of seafarers and the realization of changes at sea be in preventing man-made accidents? Should we completely rely on artificial intelligence when making these choices or should the decision maker continue to be human?

AI can significantly enhance the selection process of seafarers and operational changes by analyzing comprehensive data sets, identifying patterns, and predicting potential issues. However, human oversight remains critical to account for factors that AI may not fully capture, such as contextual understanding and ethical considerations. Therefore, a balanced approach, where AI aids but does not replace human decision-making, is recommended. AI can provide valuable support in identifying the best candidates and optimizing operations, but the final decisions should involve human judgment.

 What steps is the university taking to integrate AI education and training into the curriculum for future maritime personnel?

Our university is integrating AI education and training into its curriculum by developing specialized courses, fostering industry partnerships, and promoting research initiatives in AI. Course designs on Artificial Intelligence should be made at four levels. At the first level, to increase artificial intelligence awareness, and improve artificial intelligence literacy in all students, the “Artificial Intelligence for All” course will be given in all programs. At the second level, it is aimed to increase the professional productivity of students by teaching current Artificial Intelligence applications in the corresponding program. The third level includes courses necessary for the development of Artificial Intelligence algorithms and applications. Finally, there are advanced design and programming courses for Artificial Intelligence research, especially at the graduate level.

These efforts aim to equip future maritime professionals with the necessary skills and knowledge to leverage AI technologies effectively. The curriculum includes hands-on training, case studies, and collaborative projects with industry partners to provide practical experience. Additionally, the university is investing in cutting-edge research facilities and encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration to advance AI research and education.

What are the university’s key research priorities in the field of AI for maritime applications, and how can these advancements benefit the sector?

Our university’s key research priorities include developing AI algorithms for autonomous and sustainable systems, enhancing cybersecurity measures, and exploring AI applications in logistics and maintenance. These advancements can benefit the maritime sector by improving operational efficiency, reducing costs, and enhancing mission success rates. Research efforts focus on creating robust and reliable AI systems that can operate in dynamic and challenging environments. By advancing AI technology, the university aims to provide the maritime sector with cutting-edge tools and solutions that enhance its capabilities and readiness.

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