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Social Innovation

AI Captain: The future of Ship Navigation
Inspiring Stena Line to Embrace AI Technology

The Background:

Stena Line is one of Europe's leading ferry companies with 38 vessels and 21 routes in Northern Europe, as of March 2019. It aims to become the world’s first cognitive ferry company. It has also set itself targets for sustainability; one of which is to reduce fuel consumption by 2.5% per nautical mile annually. Stena Line asked Hitachi to identify software solutions that could help make operations more efficient in shipping - improving safety and supporting ships in reducing fuel consumption and emissions. By introducing AI technologies, Hitachi have been able to identify the key factors causing high fuel consumption and advise how to make operations more efficient and environmentally sustainable.

The Challenge:

Traditionally, ships use an archive of old routes combined with the knowledge of their captains to plot their routes, but these aren’t necessarily the most fuel-efficient. Several factors, such as wind conditions, water depth, and sea currents are constantly changing and have an effect on the ship that is difficult to predict. Over a lifetime at sea, Stena Line’s most experienced captains develop an instinct to find the best path. But the company can’t wait 25 years to train each new captain; it needed a new and efficient way to pass on that experience and knowledge to the next generation of sailors.

The Solution:

In September 2018, Stena Line introduced AI-assistance to its first vessel: The Stena Scandinavica, which is now running the technology as a pilot study.

The AI model simulates many different scenarios before suggesting the optimal route and performance setup for making fuel efficiencies. With the help of AI, the captain and other ship’s officers are able to consider a number of variables, such as sea currents, weather conditions, water depth and speed through water, in various combinations which would be impossible to do manually. The AI recalculates in real-time and provides the crew with ongoing suggestions to keep the ship on the optimal course.

The officers are also able to feed in information to the AI so that it learns from previous experience, and so Stena Line are continuing to develop and improve the technology. In this way, the project between Hitachi and Stena Line is one of co-creation.

The pilot study on the Stena Scandinavica, on the Gothenburg – Kiel route, is the first of several studies involving AI-assisted ferry trips within the fleet. At the end of 2019 there will be an evaluation of the project, before deciding how to continue with AI-assistance on the company’s fleet of 38 ships.

The Future:

Hitachi is continuing to review Stena Line’s existing digital architecture and supporting their goal of becoming the world’s leading cognitive shipping company by 2021.

With the help of Hitachi, Stena Line is at the forefront of the shipping industry’s efforts to reduce its environmental footprint whilst increasing efficiency through the integration of smart technology.

The goal is to create an AI model that is so precise that it would be the ultimate decision support system for the captain when planning each trip - the next aim is to use AI technology to accurately predict the sea currents, typically the most complicated variable. This would be an enormous support to even the most experienced Captain, as well as a valuable teaching aid for the next generations of officers.

About Stena Line

Stena Line is one of Europe's leading ferry companies with 38 vessels and 21 routes in Northern Europe. Stena Line is an important part of the European logistics network and develops new intermodal freight solutions by combining transport by rail, road and sea. Stena Line also plays an important role for tourism in Europe with its extensive passenger operations. The company is family-owned, was founded in 1962 and is headquartered in Gothenburg. Stena Line is part of the Stena AB Group, which has about 15 000 employees and an annual turnover of around 36,5 billion SEK. For more information please visit

About Hitachi Europe

Hitachi Europe Ltd., a subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., is headquartered in Maidenhead, UK. The company is focused on its Social Innovation Business - delivering innovations that answer society’s challenges. Hitachi Europe and its subsidiary companies offers a broad range of information & telecommunication systems; rail systems, power and industrial systems; industrial components & equipment; automotive systems, digital media & consumer products and others with operations and research & development Laboratories across EMEA. For more information, visit

  • Customer: Stena Line
  • Region: Sweden
  • Release Date: March 2019
  • Products & Services: AI Captain
  • Solutions By: Digital Solutions Group, Hitachi Europe