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AMBS and University of Manchester support major AI project at Dover Harbour

The Port of Dover and the universities of Manchester and Plymouth have been awarded a £333,585 grant by Innovate UK to create and embed an AI-augmented digital twin of Dover harbour.

The funding underpins a three-year Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) that will harness the universities’ world-leading expertise in hydrodynamic modelling and cutting-edge research in AI and machine learning to create a transformative virtual model of the Port of Dover.

The enhanced ‘digital twin’ will provide a dynamic year-round 24-hour, all-weather simulation of the complex tidal flows across the harbour and help predict with confidence the conditions essential for safe navigation in the Port.

As a result, the Port will remain operational during harsher weather conditions and be able to welcome larger vessels and an even greater range of cruise and cargo ships, enabling greater operational efficiency and an increased volume of UK imports and exports. 

Real business challenge

Yu-wang Chen, Professor of Decision Sciences and Business Analytics at Alliance Manchester Business School, said: “This KTP is a great opportunity for the Universities of Manchester and Plymouth to form a strong partnership with the Port of Dover, integrate our knowledge across disciplinary boundaries to tackle real business challenges, and apply AI and emerging technologies to facilitate the digital transformation of the port.

“The overarching objective of the project is to create and embed a physics-based and AI-augmented digital twin tool, which will provide simulation of fluid flow patterns to further support analysis of navigation environment and inform port operations decision-making at the Port.”

Arijit De, Assistant Professor of Management Science at the University of Manchester, added: “This project will revolutionise maritime operations by leveraging advanced AI knowledge and expertise to tackle the pressing challenges that arise in real-world scenarios.”

Tech-enabled port

Doug Bannister, Chief Executive of the Port of Dover, said the Port was delighted with the award. “We are thoroughly looking forward to working with the Universities of Manchester and Plymouth on this hugely exciting project, which will play a vital role in our journey to become the UK’s most seamless, sustainable, and tech-enabled port.

“The enhanced navigational analysis brought by the digital twin of Dover Harbour will extend our capability and operational hours and subsequently deliver a huge bonus of growth and productivity to the national economy.”

Wider programme

The project forms part of a wider programme of digitalisation by the Port of Dover, including work on a similar land-side digital twin, using digital transformation to support energy efficiency and decarbonisation, as well as using AI to optimise traffic flows and port operations.

The Port of Dover is the busiest international ferry port in the UK, with two million cars and 11 million passengers passing through every year. Dover also processes 2.4 million trucks per year, more than all other UK ports. In total, the Port of Dover deals with £144 billion of trade in goods each year, and 33% of the UK’s trade with the EU.  It is also the UK’s second busiest cruise port.

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