Every time a member of their crew changes, maritime crew managers need to handle immigration regulations, COVID requirements and travel plans for each person. This is usually done through emails with port agents, and can quickly lead to an overwhelming number of messages, sent across multiple time zones, especially if multiple people are leaving or onboarding. To simplify the process, Greywing, the Singapore-based maritime intelligence platform backed by investors like Flexport and Y Combinator, announced today it has developed SeaGPT, an AI chatbot based on GPT4 tech.
In a statement, Greywing CEO Nick Clarke said email overwhelm is the top problem crew managers ask them to fix. SeaGPT is latest of the startup’s tools for automating crew changes. The current version (Greywing plans to continue developing it and adding new use cases) simplifies the process by automating parts of the communication process, like drafting emails with important questions and extracting the most essential information from port agency replies for specific crew members.
Greywing co-founder and chief technology officer Hrishi Olickel told TechCrunch that SeaGPT isn’t a plug-and-play generative AI chatbot, but was made possible by advancements with GPT4 and a maritime-specific approach to programming.
He added that email overload affects how many vessels a crew manager can handle at a time and their ability to gather information for decisions. “If a single decision, like a port agent for a single crew change, has information spread out over seven emails and replies inside PDFs and Excel files, the chances for human error are higher. In addition, maritime is a global industry. When time zones aren’t favorable, crew managers either have to be available 24/7 or face multi-day turnaround times for a conversation.”
As an example, one of Greywing’s customers had an injured master that needed to be evacuated from his ship immediately. This meant that the crew manager had to find the closest port to the right medical facilities. But since they were near new ports, a massive amount of emails needed to be sent to coordinate his departure. Olickel said SeaGPT could have whittled that time down from hours to minutes.
So how does SeaGPT work? It’s currently available through Greywing’s platform, Slackbot and its mobile app, with plans to add integrations to WhatsApp and Teams. Users can ask SeaGPT questions like “set up a crew change for me in Melbourne.” Olickel explains that crew managers who are in the process of switching out crew members need to know how much it will cost for each person leaving and if there are any restrictions, including COVID vaccination requirements and immigration regulations, that they need to be aware of.
After receiving a request, SeaGPT, which is connected to Greywing’s proprietary database covering 18,300 ports, looks through all the information and comes back with the necessary information. It then asks questions like what type of vessel is involved, the nationality of people onboarding and offboarding and their names. That info is used for SeaGPT to draft emails to be sent to port agents. Questions that are often overlooked by busy crew managers are included, including “can you please advise on any immigration or port state restrictions, if PCR tests are required for shore leave and how much it will cost.”
To prevent errors, SeaGPT does not allow hallucinations, so if the details requested aren’t available, it flags it instead of assuming of impersonating information. Emails can be sent through Greywing’s platform and flights can be booked there, too, if needed.
Olickel explains that when crew managers get emails back, they often receive information in different formats. For example, it can be in a list, written out in a paragraph or even in different languages. SeaGPT helps by translating (languages it can handle include Hindi, Greek, Russian and Mandarin), pulling out per-person costs and historical costs and putting it into a user’s Greywing records.
SeaGPT is now primarily meant for communication with port agents, but Olickel said as it develops further, Greywing wants it to help simplify communication between between agents, seafarers and masters into relevant points that can be imported as structured data.
“In the long-term, we expect SeaGPT to be a team member or executive assistant to the crewing team, as a tool that is simply copied into communications when necessary,” he said. “It runs in the background, retrieving relevant data and handling all communications that don’t need direct involvement, and providing automated decision support for each crew manager.”