Bearing.ai emerges from stealth to power recommendations for shipping boat captains


Bearing.ai emerged from stealth today to launch AI-powered software that provides predictions to the maritime shipping industry and tanker boat captains. The idea is to optimize shipping route navigation based on fuel efficiency, profit, and safety. Since the company was founded in 2019, Bearing.ai has raised $3 million from the AI Fund, a $175 million endeavor led by former Google Brain cofounder Andrew Ng, as well as Japanese shipping company Mitsui and Co.

Bearing.ai CEO Dylan Kiel told VentureBeat the startup was able to train its first models with historical data provided by investor Mitsui and Co. and 2,500 ships. As part of the arrangement, Bearing.ai announced deals to provide services to 300 K Line vessels, as well as shipping companies MOL and ZeroNorth. Fuel consumption is Bearing.ai’s primary focus, Kiel said, because it’s the biggest single driver of operating costs for shipping companies. When making predictions, Bearing.ai takes in sensor data and considers factors like ship dimensions, location, and weather conditions like wind speed and wave size.

“Weather is one of the single biggest drivers of the variance that occurs with fuel consumption for a given voyage. I can have the same ship going on the same route, let’s say Tokyo to San Diego, and [carrying] the same cargo. And the consumption I have from voyage A to voyage B could be different by 30-40% based upon the weather,” Kiel said.

Bearing.ai claims its models are capable of predicting the fuel consumption of a container or hull ship with 98% accuracy, a feat made possible by fuel sensors and speed sensors collecting data on a minute-by-minute basis.

Container ships enable a vast amount of global trade but saw a sharp decline in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Like other industries,  shipping faces pressure to automate, and Kiel said Bearing.ai wants to help companies consider a range of options to save money.

“It’s not just choosing the right route for one ship. If you choose that right route for that ship that impacts what the other ships need to do and that impacts what you’re going to do with your contract and when you’re going to clean that ship and so on … there’s a lot of decision points that ultimately are all interconnected if you’re trying to optimize the whole system,” he said. “Pretty much every decision you can make as a decision company — whether it’s fuel to use, the ship to use, the route to take, how you position your fleet — all of that impacts your ultimate operational efficiency.”

Other examples of automation startups entering the maritime space include Sea Machines, which is working on autonomous shipping navigation, and Orca AI, which makes systems to help ships avoid collisions. Also of note is recent work by AI researchers to create amphibious robots capable of movement on sea and land.

Bearing.ai was founded in June 2019 and is based in Palo Alto, California. The company has 10 employees.

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