Cyprus maritime stakeholders are joining forces on a €1 mln artificial intelligence project that puts the island on the technological map to keep the seas cleaner and safer.
MARI-Sense, a project using intelligent systems for human operators to make sense of the complex maritime environment for transport, shipping, coastal tourism, search and rescue, spatial planning.
It supports the shipping industry, environmental authorities, academia, and law enforcement in decision making by providing the bigger picture of underwater and overwater ecosystems.
The Maritime Cognitive Decision Support System (MARI-Sense) project is co-financed with €1 mln by the European Development Fund and the Republic of Cyprus through the Research and Innovation Foundation.
Petros Petrikkos, a researcher at the University of Nicosia Research Foundation, lead partner of the project, told the Financial Mirror: “MARI-Sense is a strategic project for smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth with a beneficial impact on society, technology, and the economy”.
He said there is a cooperation between the academic community, the shipping and tourism industries, government and local authorities and the general public.
The system deploys smart equipment that includes buoys, smart-boats, smart-floats, and land-based stations that monitor weather conditions, presence of swimmers, potential illegal activity in marine protected areas, ports, tourism areas, and critical infrastructures, providing early warning and tools for planning and action by authorities.
The project’s research associate Olympia Nisiforou of the Cyprus University of Technology (CUT), said the system could help save lives by giving out early warning systems to the coast guard.
The project’s scientific and technological objectives are designing marine nodes with onboard processing capabilities for smart sensing, power and bandwidth savings, remote sensing capabilities, sensor interconnectivity for swarm intelligence.
“Buoys in the water and smart boats patrolling the area can detect changes in the sea environment that could pose an unforeseen danger to ships or swimmers in danger, dispatching help,” said Nisiforou.
“The Maritime Cognitive Decision Support System is a holistic ecosystem of AI systems which gathers information on the sea environment from changes in currents to changes of the seabed,” she added.
It could help with marine farming, as the system will provide farmers with all the data they need regarding the sea environment.
Nisiforou stressed the importance of monitoring the seaweed at the bottom of the sea, which act as a natural carbon sink, cleaning the sea and the atmosphere from carbon dioxide pollutants emitted by ships.
“We often talk about pollution on land, but we often ignore pollution created by ships in the sea. The ecosystem at the bottom of the sea helps to regulate the global climate system.”
MARI-Sense will also be in a position to help the shipping industry meet its environmental targets, detecting vessels that do not meet green criteria.
Shipping companies have already heavily invested in reducing their emissions over the last decade.
As set by the European Union, the shipping industry aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 50% by 2030, compared to 2008 levels.
“The system will be able to detect ships that are not complying with the directive, while also spotting those that are illegally offloading their waste into the sea,” Petrikkos said.
The system can also regulate routes of ships, sending them the quickest, safest way to their destination while also coordinating traffic at neighbouring ports to save time and expenses.
“It can also warn ships of the potential presence of a pirate ship.
“The main motivation is to facilitate sustainable growth in all maritime related industries,” said Nisiforou.
She said the general objective is developing and implementing smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth strategies with a beneficial impact on society, technology, and the economy.
“The project can also benefit Cyprus’ tourism industry, the island’s main source of income, as the industry will have a better view of the sea environment near crowded beaches and be in a better position to take decisions on future investments.”
She argued MARI-Sense would contribute to developing new skills and jobs to promote marine science, research, and innovation.
The project comprises 14 partners from academia, industry and government.
It has partially gone online with researchers preparing the first reports of data collected from the sea.