Enabling a safety focus through tech

Safetytech Accelerator’s Gabriele Dado explains how innovation can improve seafarer wellbeing

By Carly Fields

A mechanical and marine engineer by training, Gabriele Dado sees value in experiencing all that shipping has to offer. Having entered the maritime industry through V.Group’s graduate programme, Gabriele has lived and worked in multiple countries and business functions. From ship supply chain management in Monaco, engineering and condition monitoring in Glasgow, and dry-docking and conversions in Poland to ship management in Cyprus, maintenance in Singapore and sailing as a deck and engine officer on bulk carriers and chemical tankers, he has first-hand experience of the multi-facet[1]ed nature of the industry.

Upon completion of the V.Group graduate programme, Gabriele was offered a job in sales for V.Group’s condition monitoring division. While he knew nothing about sales, he accepted the offer, keen to continue his industry learning. From there he worked his way up to commercial manager, then head of sales and on to commercial director, responsible for the delivery of a $250 million budget across the group’s marine services. Crucially, this included the digital area of V.Group’s business, which set the foundation for Gabriele’s current position as commercial director of Safetytech Accelerator, the world’s first and only dedicated technology accelerator focused on safety and risk.

Safetytech Accelerator works with corporate industry leaders and ambitious technology start-ups to solve industry safety and risk challenges through the deployment of cutting-edge technology solutions including AI, drones, virtual reality, augmented reality and sensors. Gabriele humorously compares it to a “dating service where each and every user is carefully scrutinised, vetted and supported in their romantic journey”.

Safetytech is a non-profit, independent organisation founded by Lloyd’s Register and Lloyd’s Register Foundation and its mission is to make the world a safer place by spreading safety tech. In the past, it has been described as supporting tech that is “an enabler” of crew wellbeing and safety.

What this means in practice, Gabriele says, is that it gives seafarers a voice and a platform. “Technology is a true enabler that is capable of capturing wellbeing issues, stress, fatigue, and depression, giving companies and regulators precise insights as to whether crews really are fit and well.”

Seeing the signs

Gabriele highlights a recent survey that found that roughly 1 in 3 seafarers screened positive for anxiety or depression, yet more than a third of those did not ask for help. Further, 1 in 5 seafarers reported suicidal ideation and 2 out of 3 people on vessels do not realise they need help. Only a small percentage reach out to seek support, according to the data.

“Technology gives a voice to all those who don’t or can’t speak up, due to cultural stigmas, fear of losing their jobs or otherwise.”

The beauty of technology is that it is unbiased, he adds. It is objective, not subjective, and it is quantitative, not just qualitative. Authenticity of data is ensured by coupling technologies such as audio analytics or video analytics with artificial intelligence to correctly identify data.

However, the bottleneck of budget can be a significant hurdle to take-up of safety-related tech. Even relatively cheap solutions – just hundreds of dollars per year – are being rejected. “Maritime is quite behind as an industry for this, and we have significant steps to take in the right direction in that sense,” Gabriele says.

A bigger barrier is culture. Technology can provide the tools, but it is what companies do with that technology and that data that really counts. “This is where human factors work really comes into play. Data is nothing without correct interpretation and the right company culture, from management down to operational level, which turns insights into impact-making decisions for crews.”

Gabriele highlights two safety technologies that have progressed through the Safetytech Accelerator programme that could make a real difference to seafarer welfare. Senseye, a start-up based in Austin, Texas, uses technology to examine the iris in the eye to detect muscle movements that connect directly to the brain and cognitive states. Originally developed for use in the defence industry to assess fitness for duty, the system can be used to detect, for example, dangerous levels of fatigue, intoxication or maladaptive signals of stress, its supporters say. Marine users might include not only seafarers but also dock workers and equipment operators.

audEERING, meanwhile, is a German company specialising in audio AI applications. audEERING offers technology for speech-based emotion recognition, speaker state and trait analysis, and extraction of vocal biomarkers from audio recordings.

Both have been successfully trialled in joint programmes with Safetytech Accelerator and industry partners such as Torm, PIL and Harwich Haven Port Authority, which is responsible for over 40% of the UK’s container traffic.

All of them reported a successful proof of concept with correct identification of the fitness for duty levels for crew on board.

Another past graduate of the Safetytech Accelerator programme is also focused on crew wellbeing. Scoutbase’s technology works by soliciting direct feedback from seafarers to a set of questions about wellbeing and safety, which can either be integrated through crew Wi-Fi or as pop-ups on a seafarer’s personal device. Some 400 data points can be collected per vessel per month, the developers say, with an average engagement rate of around 80%. Data can then be analysed and visualised on a dashboard by shoreside management for care teams to act upon. It is also possible to use Scoutbase to track the implementation of resulting initiatives and their effectiveness.

Next steps

This year, Safetytech embarked on its Waypoint 3 programme, culminating in the selection of three start-ups.

“They’re all profoundly different, from visual analytics to computer vision, to autonomous robots,” Gabriele says. Of the three, he says he is especially interested in Aliciabots, an automated hull cleaning robot, relating his interest to his background as maintenance manager for V.Group’s diving division where he saw first-hand the dangers of the marine environment. He hopes that this product will have a profound impact on diver safety all over the world.

These tools and tech are important for seafarers because they give seafarers a true and unbiased voice, Gabriele says. “They enable them to take ownership of their own personal safety as well as emotional wellbeing. Everyone has the right to work in a safe and stress-free environment as much as possible and we owe this right to the heroes that enable trade by putting their lives on the line every day.”

Safetytech Accelerator also recently launched Waypoint 4: Nearshore, its latest acceleration programme. There are opportunities for maritime organisations and tech companies to get engaged in the projects that Safetytech Accelerator is working on. First off, Gabriele encourages engagement through Safetytech Accelerator socials. “We are very active, especially on LinkedIn and there you’ll always be able to find news on the upcoming events, showcases, case studies and publications. So, if you want to stay up-to-date and at the forefront of maritime innovation that is one way to do so.”

Alternatively, the team can be reached via the website. “We’re always happy to hear from seafarers and anyone in the industry that wants to share their own views and help make the sea a safer place for anyone to work.”

Connect with and follow the Safetytech Accelerator here: www.linkedin. com/company/safetytech-accelerator. Gabriele and his team can be contacted on [email protected].