Ship collision and the sharing of data for AI purposes; a (potential) field of tension?
In the beginning of this summer, a position paper on Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) in the maritime industry was published by the work group “Haven en Maritiem” (Port and Maritime). This work group is part of the “Nederlandse AI Coalitie” (Dutch AI Coalition): a public-private partnership between the government, private business, educational and research institutions which aims to accelerate AI developments in the Netherlands and connect AI initiatives.
The position paper defines four subareas where the acceleration of AI development is desired: (i) smart shipping, (ii) smart manufacturing, (iii) smart port logistics and, (iv) smart port management.
For all four of these subareas, the following applies: the sharing of data is a prerequisite for AI applications to take off in the first place. It requires companies to share data which could be considered as sensitive from a commercial or legal point of view. This could potentially be a bottleneck.
For example: for reasons lying in the legal framework for the liability of a shipowner for casualties and damage, it would not be surprising if shipowners are a bit hesitant to share all their ship’s data.
Under the Hague-Visby Rules, the 1968 protocol to the much older Hague Rules to which a large number of the world’s most dominant seafaring nations are signatories, a shipowner is exonerated from liability for damage in a specific number of cases; by example in case of a navigational error (article IV(2) sub a), perils of the sea (article IV(2) sub c) or quarantine restrictions (article IV(2) sub h).
The majority of legal proceedings regarding damage caused by a ship concerns the question whether the event causing the damage, is included in the list of article IV of the Hague Visby Rules. The answer to that question has far-reaching consequences for the various parties involved.
Currently, it is common practice that upon occurrence of a casualty shipowners, or bareboat charters, prefer to commence investigations to the cause without the prying eyes from cargo interest or other stakeholders. The sharing of information is restricted to a minimum to avoid inter alia self-incrimination or preventing parties from jumping to premature conclusions.
Therefore, these investigations into a ship casualty can turn into a legal battlefield where the stakes of the fight are to obtain information; from the engine bell book and performance of the engine, to the rest schedule of the crew.
The question is: will ships’ interests in the foreseeable future be willing to share all their (sensitive) data for the purpose of the industry’s joint development of AI applications?
True to my profession as a maritime lawyer, I might be overly focussed on all the things that can go wrong or might not work. Perhaps shipowners will be pleased to share their data with other companies for this joint effort of AI developments beneficial to the maritime shipping sector; the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.