Tuesday, January 22, 2019

"Port of Rotterdam: Self-Learning Computers Predicting Vessel Arrival Times"

End of an era.
For most of the history of shipping the merchant who knew the arrival time of a cargo, especially a consumable, had an advantage in that they could take their inventory position to flat or maybe even sell forward to avoid getting stuck when supply hit the market.

This ancient tale was in fact the basis of my understanding of speculation.
From a 2011 post "This is What a Bear Market Looks Like Folks (now with Voodoo Beach Bunnies)":
One etymology of the word speculation:
c.1374, "contemplation, consideration," from O.Fr. speculation, from L.L. speculationem (nom. speculatio) "contemplation, observation," from L. speculatus, pp. of speculari "observe," from specere "to look at, view" (see scope (1)). Disparaging sense of "mere conjecture" is recorded from 1575. Meaning "buying and selling in search of profit from rise and fall of market value" is recorded from 1774; short form spec is attested from 1794. Speculator in the financial sense is first recorded 1778. Speculate is a 1599 back-formation. 
That is not the etymology grandmother taught me. Hers had to do with Italian merchants keeping watchtowers manned to spot sails over the horizon, enabling those who could see furthest to sell off inventory before goods-ladened ships made harbor and crashed the market. More like this etymology at Wictionary:
From Latin speculātus, past participle of speculor (“‘look out’”), from specula (“‘watchtower’”), from specio (“‘look at’”) Either way, the current market does not lend itself to either contemplation or seeing over the horizon....
One of the complaints about the greatest dividend paying corporation of all time, the Dutch East Indies Company was that it sometimes paid dividends-in-kind meaning all the shareholders received their allotment of spices at the same time and many rushed to convert to guilders as quickly as possible.

And then there is this from AFNS via 2012's "The World's First Stock Exchange (and first bear raid, first dividend, first equity derivatives...)":
(VOC) $64.98 (+$13.84) (+27.1%) Shares in the spice purveyor soared on word that the three sturdy galleons dispatched two years afore had been sighted off the coast of Cape Verde, returning from their dangerous voyage to the exotic Orient with their casks brimful of redolent cinnamon, cardamom, and mysteriously intoxicating curried powder.
Okay, that's actually America's Finest News Source.

And after that ramble, the headline story from World Maritime News, Jan. 14:

The Port of Rotterdam is investing in the development of Pronto, an application for standardized data exchange on port calls.
Almost half of the shipping companies, agents, terminals and other nautical service providers in the port use the system to plan, implement and monitor their activities during a port call, as explained by the Port of Rotterdam.

Pronto uses artificial intelligence to predict vessel arrival times in the port. Artificial intelligence and big data are enabling the arrival times of vessels in sea and inland ports to be predicted earlier and with increased precision.

“Various factors influence a vessel’s arrival time. This includes the vessel type and cargo type, as well as the location, route, sailing speed and movements of other vessels in the vicinity,” Arjen Leege, Senior Data Scientist at the Port of Rotterdam Authority, said.

“We have mapped out the most crucial parameters. During this process, we sometimes dropped parameters or added new ones. For instance, it emerged that the number of times a vessel has already entered the Port of Rotterdam is also relevant,” he added.

Data sources include AIS and the port authority databases, including vessel arrival times at the loading platform. Port authority data scientists used the parameters to develop a self-learning computer model. Initially, this was fed with some 12,000 items of historical data. The computer recognised patterns in these, enabling it to learn to predict how much time a vessel needs to move from the loading platform to the berth.

“Computers can make complex connections must faster than people. That is actually the power of artificial intelligence. A computer’s predictive capacity increases when it is fed continuously with up-to-date data. We can now predict with 20-minute precision when arriving vessels will reach the berth,” Leege explained.

“The computer can also look further into the future and calculate the arrival times of vessels that are still some seven days away from the Port of Rotterdam. By looking further ahead, we will ultimately be able to predict a vessel’s entire route. Perhaps even some 30 days in advance, including multiple ports.”

“The more details we know at an earlier stage, the better we can plan our resources. If you know it will be busy in the port you can, for instance, increase the towage capacity in advance by requesting tugboats from another port to call at Rotterdam. Pronto can now also identify which vessels are bunkered, piloted or towed in the port. Possibly there will be new applications in the future that we’ve not considered as yet,” he continued.....