Maritime industry: technology, lifeline

The maritime industry is increasingly turning to innovation to improve efficiency, strengthen the supply chain or reduce environmental impact. Here are three good examples of innovations that have come from the maritime industry.

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Commercial vessels navigating the St. Lawrence River face many navigational challenges, including sea currents, tides, and variations in water width and depth.

The Laurentian Pilot Service (APL), which manages navigation on the river between Les Escoumins and Montreal – areas considered the most risky – has developed a traffic optimization system to improve traffic flow.

“The application allows, for example, to determine the shortest route from one point to another. We can also tell the ship when is the best time to arrive at Les Escoumins so it doesn’t have to slow down to Montreal,” explains Alain Richard, Captain of the APL.

The system is also useful for passenger ships, which, due to their height, can only pass under the Quebec Bridge at low tide. “Then we can advise them to slow down or speed up to arrive at the best moment. This saves them from having to anchor while waiting for the tide to go out,” adds Alain Richard.

Developed in partnership with Maritime Innovation, this technology improves the efficiency of the supply chain and enhances the safety of shipping as fewer ships are temporarily idle. This is not to mention the environmental benefit.

“Because the routes are optimized, ships consume less fuel and therefore emit less greenhouse gases,” emphasizes the captain.

9,000 ships pass through this sea route every year. This shows the importance of scheduling this traffic well.

Bella Desgagnés supplies water to many communities on the Lower North Coast that are still without road or rail links to the rest of the world.

Photo from the archive of the QMI agency

Bella Desgagnés supplies water to many communities on the Lower North Coast that are still without road or rail links to the rest of the world.


Since 2016, several industry players – coast guards, port authorities, carriers and others – have been sharing their data with the Maritime Information System (SIM).

This tool, created through a joint initiative between the Société de développement économique du Saint-Laurent (SODES) and Innovation maritime, filled a large gap.

“The industry continuously generates a large amount of information that has not been compiled and processed. We wanted to develop a tool that could analyze them so that industry stakeholders could have access to reliable data for decision making,” explains Sylvain Lafrance.insert), Executive Director of the Innovative Marine Center for Applied Research, part of the Maritime Institute of Quebec (IMQ).

Vessel traffic, type of ships (bulk or container) circulating on the St. Lawrence, navigation speed, type of cargo carried, fleet capacity… Every six seconds, the SIM card stores a variety of information in various databases. They are then filtered, structured and analyzed using powerful extraction and processing tools.

SIM is an open interface available to the entire industry, as well as to researchers, organizations and the general public, who can request various data.

“The municipality could, for example, obtain accurate shipping data for an investment project to improve its port facilities,” emphasizes Sylvain Lafrance.

In 2021, Innovation Maritime received $900,000 in financial assistance to develop the second phase of the SIM card to integrate it into the St. Lawrence Smart Economic Corridor.

“This will allow us to go further in the use of data by integrating artificial intelligence tools to enhance analysis and better track the development of the sector. And from 2023, we aim to expand data collection to the Great Lakes,” says Mr. Lafrance.


It was during the first wave of COVID-19 that the CargO2ai system was developed. It took only 10 weeks to develop this technological tool that allows you to identify goods in containers. Challenge: Deliver as quickly as possible medical equipment, medicines and food that are considered a priority in a health crisis.

“The app identifies containers of these goods before the cargo ships arrive at the port, allowing them to be processed faster once they are docked,” explains Daniel Olivier, director of strategic intelligence and innovation at the Port of Montreal. These goods are quickly taken care of by carriers who deliver them to their destination. »

CargO2ai was developed through a partnership between the Port of Montreal, CargoM, Scale AI (Canadian Artificial Intelligence Super Cluster) and Ivado Labs, who developed the AI ​​algorithm.

Since the implementation of the solution, about 7,200 containers have been processed on a priority basis. “The algorithm is getting more and more efficient with an efficiency ratio that has increased from 80% to 92%,” says Daniel Olivier.

Now that it has proven itself, the technology can be used more widely.

“We are exploring different directions,” says Daniel Olivier. For example, it can be useful to speed up the delivery of critical equipment, such as materials for the construction of a hospital. »

It also generates interest abroad. The Port of Montreal is considering partnering with the Port of Antwerp-Bruges, Belgium to share its technology.

So CargO2ai, developed in an emergency in response to an unprecedented health and logistics crisis, could make a big difference.