Artificial intelligence can’t answer everything

Ioannis Psarros, chief commercial officer of Signal Maritime Services discusses the limitations of AI for tanker chartering

At Signal we are passionate about technology and the significant assistance it can bring to shipping professionals, but we don’t believe that algorithms can replace good intuitive shipbroking.

Despite what you may have read in the media, AI is not going to take away your job. This is because of one simple reason: it is not acceptable to make mistakes that humans consider obvious. AI makes a lot of those. AI makes these mistakes because it has no sense of context. It just has a mechanised way of viewing the world and executing repetitive tasks. So, although AI can be very useful in elevating end-to-end performance, you always need a human to supervise AI systems and make the right calls.

Algorithms cannot replace good intuitive shipbroking

The ups and downs of 2020, as well as market and operational complexities, underline one simple fact. No system can replace an intelligent human who asks the right questions and is backed up with experience, contacts, a telephone and sense of humour.

It’s tough for everyone in the tanker business at the moment. How do you beat the market when cargo demand is down and vessel oversupply is keeping volatility at low levels?

The best way to overperform is through making the right macro calls. Executing on those macro calls requires long-term relationships. These relationships enable the right deployment strategy, increased triangulation, the right backhauls and consecutive voyage options. Obviously, none of these activities can be even considered without valuable and established relationships with brokers and charterers.

It is down to the intuitive shipbroker who can feel that conditions are changing to come up with the competitive solution. The broker who knows when a cargo has not been quoted yet but that it will come in the market next week; when a cargo has no offers in; when a charterer mentions that he will start countering at certain levels significantly lower from last dones; when somebody is considering to going to the market for a replacement.

These are things which technology can’t replace and we don’t want it to. Technology is there to make a good shipbroker a great shipbroker by freeing him or her up to focus on relationships. It’s there to crunch the data 100 times faster than they ever will, but it’s only a tool to support them.

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