Training Tips for Ships: Empowering Seafarers with AI

June 21, 2023

Copyright AdobeStock/Limitless Visions
Copyright AdobeStock/Limitless Visions

In the maritime industry, seafarer safety and professionalism are critical to ensuring smooth operations and minimizing risks. As technical advancements continue to reshape every industry including ours, large language models like ChatGPT and Bard have the potential to directly assist seafarers in performing their duties more safely and professionally. So, how can a seafarer leverage these tools to enhance their onboard performance? Let’s look at some examples.

One example is in providing instant, human-readable access to regulations and guidelines. A seafarer could ask ChatGPT, "What are the requirements for fire safety on board a ship?" ChatGPT would then provide a summary of the relevant regulations, including the specific requirements for fire detection, prevention, and suppression.

Navigating the complex landscape of maritime regulations and guidelines can be challenging. ChatGPT can serve as an on-demand reference tool for seafarers, providing instant access to needed information. By simply asking the AI model about a specific regulation or guideline, seafarers can receive a concise summary, helping them stay informed and compliant with the requirements.

A second example is using ChatGPT or Bard as a translation tool. A seafarer could ask it to translate a message from English to Chinese. The tool would then provide the translation in real time, allowing the seafarer to communicate effectively with a crew member who speaks Chinese. Effective communication is critical to ensuring safety and collaboration among crew members. These tools can help seafarers improve their onboard communication by offering real-time language translation or providing guidance on how to convey complex concepts more clearly.
A third example is the use of ChatGPT or Bard to help brainstorm solutions to problems. A seafarer could ask the tool, "What are some possible causes of a loss of power on board a ship?" It would then provide a list of possible causes, along with potential solutions. Seafarers often face unexpected challenges and need to find solutions quickly. These tools can act as a virtual assistant, helping seafarers troubleshoot issues and offering potential solutions based on the information provided.

Another good example is the use of Bard to help a seafarer stay up to date with industry best practices. For example, a seafarer could ask the tool, "What are the best practices for loading and unloading cargo from a ship?" Bard would then provide a summary of the best practices, including the specific steps involved in loading and unloading cargo safely and efficiently.

A final example is the use of these tools for ongoing learning and professional development. ChatGPT or Bard can facilitate this process by offering personalized learning resources, such as articles, quizzes, or scenario-based exercises, tailored to a seafarer's specific needs and interests. For example, a seafarer could ask ChatGPT to create a quiz on the International Safety Management (ISM) Code and its key elements. ChatGPT would then create a quiz that is tailored to test the seafarer's knowledge and understanding of the ISM Code.

ChatGPT and Bard have the potential to be powerful tools for seafarers, helping them access crucial information, enhance communication, troubleshoot problems, and continuously develop their skills. However, there are real limitations. One key limitation of ChatGPT is that it is only currently aware of information from before October 2021 and therefore may not have up to date responses. And while Bard does not have this same limitation, in my experimentation with both, ChatGPT tends to give more complete and useful answers.

It is also very important to remember that these tools are far from perfect and while they will typically offer very useful and even insightful information, they can sometimes offer information that is incomplete or even totally incorrect. As such they are far away from being a substitute for professional expertise. But when this is understood, they can still serve as a great resource for brainstorming and gathering preliminary information. As with any technology, the key to success lies in striking the right balance between leveraging AI-driven tools like ChatGPT or Bard, and relying on the knowledge, experience, and judgment of seafarers themselves. By adopting a thoughtful and responsible approach to using large language models, the maritime industry can empower its workforce to excel in their roles and create a safer, more efficient operating environment for everyone involved.

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