AI in Shipping: Should We Be Scared?

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Photo Created by Can Fidan | Bing Image Creator

When ChatGPT opened up to public few months ago, a real artificial intelligence (AI) frenzy started in every part of our lives.

AI is passing Harvard exams, creating art (liked the one on the above photo, designed by me at bing.com/create), writing music, and threatening (!) to replace all jobs.

According to a report by Goldman Sachs, “As tools using advances in natural language processing work their way into businesses and society, they could drive a 7% (or almost $7 trillion) increase in global GDP and lift productivity growth by 1.5 percentage points over a 10-year period.”

There are many developments that will for sure be impacting on our social and working lives in a couple of years’ time.

How will industries like freight forwarding and people in shipping will be impacted?

When I first started working in shipping in 2000, my mentors around me were talking about handling 30-40 shipments per month in the 1990s. In the 2000s, we were handling hundreds of shipments monthly, and now in the 2020s, we handle thousands monthly with the same number of people. As we progress, from telex machines to computers, from land lines to the internet, from green screens to apps, our productivity has increased significantly. Now, we will start a new era with AI.

I do acknowledge the fact that, based on what we are hearing and seeing, the impact of AI’s integration in our lives may be a bit different. But should we be scared?

I believe just like in anything in life, we have to adapt and we need to continually improve.

According to Goldman Sachs, “Generative AI can streamline business workflows, automate routine tasks and give rise to a new generation of business applications.” So, keeping this in mind, I believe some of the things we have to improve as individuals in this industry are:

  • Analyze and think carefully. Being a paper pusher will not help you against AI. Whatever you do, learn the reason, root sources, and know its effects. You must analyze what is happening before and after your tasks. You need to own your process fully so that you become an expert of what you do.
  • Be your own brand independent of the company or position you work at. This is something I always advise my colleagues who freshly start in the shipping industry. This is a small world, and a person makes its brand by his or her own core values – if you are known to your team/to your company/to your industry as a “great brand”, then your value is not limited only to that specific task you do. For me, a great brand means a person reliable, responsible, trustable, ethical and a do-er. As things progress, those core values will put you in front of the line for those new tasks coming up with AI integration.
  • Speaking with people. Yes, it sounds very simple. The last 10-15 years, what we have been going through in our industry is a big shift from human interaction to more electronic interaction. It is necessary for productivity and cost factors. But which companies are the successful ones? Which ones’ customers are happy? The companies who keep that human touch are the most successful ones. So even after AI comes into the picture, customers would still like to speak with their service providers. I think improving your people skills, speaking with your vendors and customers with an “actual human connection” will put you in a strong position during AI integration.
  • Problem solving and proactiveness. Even if AI development is really fast, shipping has a lot of moving parts that are directly connected with infrastructure, unexpected world events (weather, economy, etc.) and people. In freight forwarding, we do problem solving day every day. Be that problem solver and be that proactive thinker and you will stay ahead.

I am sure we can extend this list further. The fact is that AI is going to become part of our lives – whether we like it or not – so it is better to accept this fact, work and improve ourselves based on that fact. I think this will open new doors to our generation and move us to the next level.