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Episode 2: The Role of AI in Supporting Maritime Decarbonization


Maurizio Pilu (00:34.94)

Good day from London. My name is Maurizio Pilu, and I’m the founder and managing director of Safetytech Accelerator.

In this episode, we will focus on the intersection of two very hot topics at the moment, AI and maritime decarbonization. Or in other words, the question for today is, what role will AI play in the maritime decarbonization agenda?

To discuss this today, we welcome Karno Tenovuo, founder and CEO of Awake AI. Welcome, Karno.


Karno Tenovuo (01:07.806)

Thank you.


Maurizio Pilu (01:09.412)

Let’s start with you telling us a little bit about your story and your adventures that got you so far with Awake AI and the great progress you have made. So tell us about you a bit.


Karno Tenovuo (01:20.886)

Well, I actually got into the maritime business by almost an accident. It was a master’s thesis work that I was searching after graduating from the Helsinki University of Technology. And I found interesting work at the shipyard in Turku, Finland. And I was developing.


algorithms and software for ships in the beginning and then I actually did another master’s degree on economics while I was working there and ended up leading the R&D and business development for all Finnish shipyards.


Then I started few of my own companies and suddenly I find Rolls Royce as one of my customers. And they asked me to move to Norway with my family and lead this technology development globally. And I created a business that was called Ship Intelligence for them. And it had many different


product lines, one for machine learning based asset management, one for onboard optimization and the third business was remote and autonomous vessels. So we did create the world’s first remote controlled and autonomous vessels and then that business got sold to Kongsberg in 2018 and then


I figured out that the smart vessel alone doesn’t solve the world’s challenges and they will still come to port and wait like everybody else. We didn’t see anybody else solving that challenge so we decided to solve it. And that’s how Awake AI got started.


Maurizio Pilu (03:06.844)

Fascinating, fascinating. What a journey. Well, let’s dive into the topic for today. AI and maritime decarbonization. Yesterday, I was reading the news, and I discovered that the UK is redesigning entirely the flight path into its major towns and cities. OK, so London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester.


The reason why they’re redesigning these paths is because of AI and real-time data that is now coming from planes. And the article was mentioning potentially 500 kilometers of journey saved for a transatlantic flight. So here is the aviation sector using AI and data to optimize, to increase the efficiency, I suppose, and reduce flight time and therefore save fuel. Now, something similar is happening and will be happening more and more in the


maritime market. So AI already has an obvious application, and you are working on that with Awake AI. But I wanted to ask you, taking a step back, from your extensive experience in maritime and technology, what are the top three, four, five areas where you think AI will deliver the most impact in terms of decarbonization and sustainability in maritime


Karno Tenovuo (04:34.082)

Well, of course, I have to start from port call optimization, because that’s what we do. So that’s maybe the top item, how to reduce turnaround times, how to reduce waiting times. And that’s where AI can really calculate these recommended time arrivals and departures automatically for all parties in real time, enabling just-in-time arrivals. And that’s like the…


It’s not a low-hanging fruit, but it’s something that everybody has to start anyway, because we have to reach our emission targets. The second easy area to pick for this discussion, I say, is this like route, voyage or fleet optimization. And this has the like onboard optimization aspect has been ongoing through the OEMs for a couple of decades, really.


And it has reached the point where even now we can see in the future where AI can make many of these navigational decisions and really optimize the performance at sea. But they usually stop for the pilot station and that’s where the port call part comes into play.


If I need to pick a third area, I would say that the new interesting area is this energy optimization. There’s like two megatrends in the world in maritime. It’s the digital transition and the energy transition. Now everybody, at least in Europe, many places, the prices of energy have gone up significantly. At the same time, you have new regulations for onshore power.


If you don’t know how to optimize the energy usage, the loads and the sources of energy, you’re going to run into really difficulties and that’s where AI can help.


Maurizio Pilu (06:28.272)

Fascinating. Thank you. We’ll come back to this in a moment. But since you mentioned, of course, what Awake AI is doing, tell us a bit more about the product. The Awake AI is a product or products. And perhaps give us some examples of where you are testing it with real clients, just to put some texture, some colour into it.


Maurizio Pilu (06:54.276)

I say virtual almost like you say, I will apply, but just give us an example of how clients are using it and what benefits are there.


Karno Tenovuo (07:01.414)

Like I said, the port call optimization is the key thing and that can reduce 20 to 30 percent of emissions because of faster turnaround times, reduced waiting times. That’s something that we are now testing in the SafetyTech accelerator with the Port of Algeciras. They are looking to combine these


vessel arrival time predictions with also predicting how much emissions they are going to cause for that port call. It will actually be the world’s first combined solution to do both because today everybody is just reporting historical emissions so vessels arrive to the port and then they report much later on how much emissions they actually caused for that voyage or for that port call in general.


Now we’re able to predict, so we’re predicting this vessel is coming and these are going to be the emissions related to that port call. Together with Port of Gothenburg, which is the biggest port in the Nordics, we’re taking this even further. So we’re developing now the world’s first just-in-time negotiation part.


We first gather all the relevant data so that everybody has the full situational awareness of what’s going on. Then our tool allows the different parties to negotiate this just in time, which has been the main challenge. So moving from just predicting arrival times to recommending them and negotiating them with all cargo parties. And then that gets automatically reported.


how much waiting times were saved, how much emissions were saved. So that’s like concrete examples we’re actually doing with ports and terminal operators and shipping companies.


Maurizio Pilu (09:00.076)

That’s fascinating. And I wanted to ask you, I mean, this is, you mentioned a couple of words first. And also for our audience today, to understand a bit more the challenges that you had to face to get the terminals and the ports to say, OK, let’s do this. So what were the main challenges that you faced in convincing them to try your technology?


Karno Tenovuo (09:24.478)

Yeah, it’s a very conservative industry, I would say. Not easy to change the processes that have been there for hundreds of years in many cases. The IMO regulations are actually helping in this matter because now for the first time last year the goal was set to be


And you can’t get to net zero if you don’t do everything possible that you need. You can’t even get to the 70-80% target, which is 2040, if you don’t have these systems in place. And if you start to do them too late, you’re not going to achieve the targets anyway. So you kind of have to start now. At the same time, previously, the challenge has been that there’s no data available. So when we started five and a half years ago,


We went to many ports around the world and they have pen and paper, post-it notes, Excel is a very common tool and if there’s no data, it’s really hard to build any optimization models. So the first thing is that now there has to be some kind of system to collect the data and this is also where actually IMO is coming into play. So now…


In the next couple of years, every seagoing nation needs to have a national single window in place, which is actually then having this data in the system.


Maurizio Pilu (10:50.452)

That’s fascinating. I am not a maritime person. I worked in many sectors, so I’m a digital person. And this point about data being available before one does AI is everywhere in every sector, and maritime is no different. So there is a digitization step that is necessary before these technologies can be applied. But it’s interesting to know the regulation now is starting to be a driver for.


adoption and trials. That’s the way probably it has to be to reach these targets in the future. But talking about the future, Karno, so this topic of port call optimization and route optimization and so on, let’s project it 10 years ahead, 10 years ahead. And so is the game here to squeeze every little bit of inefficiency out of the system?


so highly optimized? Or is there something around maybe new business models, some of the type of transformation? So once you have everything optimized and everything is digitized and everything, is there a different way of doing business in maritime? Or is it just about squeezing, you know, the inefficiencies?


Karno Tenovuo (12:06.231)

Well, if we start from what I see happening in root optimization for example. Now the models are quite generic, it’s not really tailored for each vessel and that’s where I see the future going. So you have the local weather, local environmental impacts that are being taking more into account.


And then I can see that then voyage optimization will be combined with port call optimization because now it stops really at the pilot station and then from pilot station to pilot station there’s really nothing. So it’s more end-to-end in the future. So technically we can do this, we can combine the solutions what happened at sea and at the port.


So it’s all integrated as microservices. But then the other thing is that we have to change these cargo contracts as well. You can claim for virtual arrival, you can book your slots in the queue and the AI will automatically check what is the optimal arrival and departure time for all parties. So that if you book something that is not optimal for you, the system will…


warn that or even recommend you to take another slot because then you will start to create these congestion issues or delays in the whole supply chain and the AI is there to really increase the cargo flow, increase the turnaround times. This will take the next 10 years to fully adopt and I don’t see that every port, every logistic chain will adopt this in the next five to ten years.


But because of regulation drivers, maybe it has to be up to 70%. It has to be adopted if you want to achieve those emission targets.


Maurizio Pilu (14:00.228)

That’s fascinating and I think you hinted at some sort of dynamic pricing and various other things, but I think what we’ll do like we have seen in other sectors, it will increase the competitive pressure for people who do not have these tools to do it because there is a tipping point, I think, in adoption of technology that at some point if you don’t have it, you’re not competitive enough in the market. So sometimes things accelerate very, very fast.


past the tipping point. Very interesting. I think it will increase competition, basically, which is some interesting dynamic that is nothing to do with, I guess, the net zero. It’s really about changing the dynamics of the business, which is an interesting thing that we will see in the future. So you covered what a Awake AI is doing, and you painted us a picture of the future.


Maybe you’re an entrepreneur. So let me see whether there is another area of AI, especially around decarbonization or energy efficiency. Let’s say if you were doing another venture, Karno right? And it wasn’t around the same topic as Awake AI. And this venture is still about tech and AI and so forth. Where would you place your bets?


Karno Tenovuo (15:17.638)

Well, I mean now we’re focusing on the digital transition, but of course there is the energy transition ongoing as well. Everybody is talking about hydrogen, new battery solutions, new type of fuels and I say that the energy optimization is a key part of it. So everything will be more electric in the future and therefore


being able to predict the loads and sources, what’s the prices of energy. So if you can like more predict and control the energy flows. Now we are focusing on cargo flows. If you could do that on energy flows, I think that has a lot of potential, a lot of investments also. Everybody is investing into wind farms, new type of energy sources.


But they need to be connected and optimized as well. So I think that has a lot of potential.


Maurizio Pilu (16:19.684)

That’s fascinating. Thank you very much. I mean, that’s something that I’m sure we will see more in the future. There are a lot of solutions based on AI in power grid optimization in many countries where the market is very fragmented. So you need to optimize to actually squeeze a lot of efficiency out of the system and balance loads. So I guess you’re saying that we will see some of that in the maritime market as it decarbonizes. Very interesting.


Karno Tenovuo (16:47.174)



Maurizio Pilu (16:48.396)

Now, let’s take a step back and let’s look about the hype surrounding AI. So many of our listeners probably are aware, I’m sure everybody’s aware about the AI hype at the moment. So, I mean, I have a PhD in AI, I spent 30 years in tech and what I see these days is just amazing, astounding, unbelievable. But then a lot of people are saying that perhaps



it’s a bit hyped at the moment. We will have to see these applications in the market and we will have to see people paying for them and so on. So the market is evolving. But let’s go back to maritime. So there is hype. I wouldn’t say hype, expectations, potential, and there is a reality. Right? So we are seeing AI now being applied in pretty much every possible area of maritime and people are talking about it, but then there is the reality on the ground.


They are different. And every sector is facing this sort of gap between the potential and the reality. So I wanted to ask you, you are an AI entrepreneur in the maritime market, right? So let’s flip to the other side of clients and maritime organizations, shipping companies, and people working in them that now are maybe exploring what to do with AI. Where do I apply it to my business?


extract value from it. Based on your experience, what recommendation would you give to people in the maritime market making the first steps into AI? What would you recommend they do? And maybe some mistakes to avoid.


Karno Tenovuo (18:30.446)

Well, first I have to tell you what we have done, because we haven’t told this in public ever before. So you’re the first one hearing this. So people talk about Chat GPT and other like generative AI solutions that are transforming industries in that sense. But we have managed to develop something similar for the logistics sector.


Maurizio Pilu (18:40.921)



Karno Tenovuo (19:00.81)

a fully automated MLOps workflow. So imagine an AI system that can really train all the models, orchestrate everything, deploy, develop, train the models fully automated. So if you have any use case anywhere in logistics, the system is self-learning and deploying all the


solutions globally instantly. So you don’t have to spend years and millions solving a challenge. The AI system can do that in let’s say a few hours and then scale that globally instantly. We have we dreamed about this at Rolls Royce times.


And we said that that’s probably the future. Now at the Awake AI, we actually managed to develop that and create that. We needed that system, that AI engine, because when we produced these prediction services globally, we said that we can’t manually just teach the system everywhere in the world. It will take 1,000 years for us to do that. So we needed to create this AI solution that is


scaling automatically orchestrates everything automatically and then even controls the quality of the solutions. So imagine if you can have any use case in the future that you can have the system as to solve that really quickly for you. So that’s where I see the industry going because we are already doing that. We’re not selling that as a product but that’s like the engine of what we have been able to create.


And then we use that to solve various use cases, like emission optimization and so on. So I would say that for any entrepreneurs out there, the industry is very conservative, but it’s rewarding because you can really make a big impact. There’s endless opportunities, what to improve, even disrupt.


Maurizio Pilu (20:57.96)

That’s it.


Karno Tenovuo (21:13.535)

And it’s the entrepreneur’s job is to find the best way forward towards that vision and that objective.


Maurizio Pilu (21:20.34)

That’s interesting. And if you were a maritime client, though, if I can’t translate maybe what you said to the client side, the buy side, if you like, of technology, are you really saying that perhaps you’re suggesting to be very careful about jumping into the AI trials and something, very carefully about what technology you’re choosing for what problem? And maybe…


try to find technology that is very scalable, that applies to many use cases in your business, or it’s easy to deploy and adopt. And AI, 20 years ago, an AI system, even 10 years ago, even five, an AI system was quite an expensive thing to develop. Now there is AI that does AI. So I think one of the founders of OpenAI said that our mission is to.


Karno Tenovuo (22:10.927)



Maurizio Pilu (22:16.432)

Make sure children don’t have to learn any programming in the future. Because basically saying AI will do the programming for you. Just say what you want. And it’s kind of thought provoking, right? But what you said is very similar. So you said basically technology now is quite sophisticated. And it might actually be flexible enough to handle several use cases if it’s done right. And very powerful, very powerful, and thought provoking.



I guess, a recommendation. I think we could spend hours and hours to talk about this topic. And I think you shared very fascinating insights about awake AI, your story, and how you see the future today. We will have to wrap it here, but I would like to thank you. Thank you very much for your insight, and best of luck with your business. Thank you. Thank you, Karno.


Karno Tenovuo (23:12.45)

Thank you.


Maurizio Pilu (23:13.628)

I would like to thank you for listening to this episode of Safetytech Accelerators Insight. Please feel free to contact us if you have any comment about today’s episode, or you would like to discuss this topic further. Of course, contact Karno if you’re interested in Awake AI solution, or if you’d like to discuss collaboration opportunities with us, or if you have suggestions about this particular episode, or if you have ideas for topics we could cover in a future episode.


So from London, this is Maurizio Pilu And from all of us at Safetytech Accelerator, I would like to say goodbye and thank you.