The following article was featured in the February issue of Pacific Ports Magazine. To view the digital version of the full issue, please click here.

By Konrad Mech, Sales Director, Coasts, Ports and Inland Waterways, Kongsberg Maritime Canada Ltd.

I recently participated in an American Society of Civil Engineers live webinar given by Collins Engineers’ Barritt Lovelace. Barritt presented his experience with the use of drones and Artificial Intelligence for bridge inspection. Many of the requirements and challenges of bridge inspection also hold for port infrastructure, for instance, the condition and defects of concrete decks and piles, the amount and rate of corrosion on steel structures, and the condition of coatings. During the discussion, Barritt mentioned he used an online tool called ChatGPT to help draft a presentation for a technical university. ChatGPT is a beta product from a company called OpenAI. Their website says Chat GPT is designed for optimizing Language Models for Dialogue.

“We’ve trained a model called ChatGPT which interacts in a conversational way. The dialogue format makes it possible for ChatGPT to answer follow-up questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests. ChatGPT is a sibling model to InstructGPT, which is trained to follow an instruction in a prompt and provide a detailed response.”

As a sales director, I have to communicate effectively with clients to learn their needs, and then explain the features and benefits of our solutions for numerous maritime applications. This can be challenging when the market is conservative, multiple stakeholders are involved, and budget cycles are long. Any tool that can help me do my job faster and more effective is worth learning about. So, I took Chat GPT for a test drive. Below you will find my Q and A with ChatGPT. Have a read — at first glance it’s fascinating. Then consider my comments at the end. I think this technology still has a long way to go. Another point to note is that ChatGPT has a resubmit button. So, I assume if you click the resubmit button the software will generate a different response. I went with the first response given, just as if I was speaking with a live person.

ChatGPT transcript

Q: My name is Konrad. I work with Civil Engineers in the Maritime sector. Tell me a little about yourself and how you can help professionals like me do my job better.

A: Hi Konrad, nice to meet you. I am an artificial intelligence trained to assist with a wide range of tasks, including answering questions and providing information on a variety of topics. As a language model, I can help you find information and clarify concepts related to your work as a civil engineer in the maritime sector. I can also help you with research and information gathering, as well as offer guidance on best practices and industry standards. Please let me know if you have any specific questions or if there is anything else I can assist with.

Q: That was very helpful. Here is another question. Several trends are driving change in the Maritime sector. These include autonomous vessels with no crew, larger vessels which require infrastructure change on shore, fewer workers entering the maritime labour force, sea level rise, new fuels to decarbonize the maritime industry, and geopolitical conflict. How do you think these changes will impact the industry — will it grow or wither?

  1. These changes are likely to have a significant impact on the maritime industry. The increasing use of autonomous vessels could lead to fewer jobs for crew members, but could also reduce operating costs for shipping companies and make shipping more efficient. Larger vessels may require infrastructure changes on shore, such as the expansion of ports and the construction of specialized loading and unloading facilities. Fewer workers entering the maritime labor force could also lead to a shortage of qualified professionals, which could impact the industry’s growth.

Sea level rise is also a major concern for the maritime industry, as rising sea levels could impact the operation and maintenance of ports and coastal infrastructure. Additionally, the need to decarbonize the industry by transitioning to new fuels could also lead to significant changes in the way the industry operates. Geopolitical conflict could also disrupt shipping routes and trade, which could impact the industry’s growth and stability.

Overall, it is difficult to predict the exact impact these changes will have on the industry, but they are likely to lead to significant changes in the way the industry operates and could have both positive and negative impacts on its growth and stability.

Q: OK, so lots for decision makers and policy experts to consider. My next question is this: Political tensions are rising between the United States of America and People’s Republic of China. At the same time, Port of Long Beach and Shanghai are cooperating on Green Shipping Corridors in order to decarbonize emissions from maritime shipping traffic. Please comment on how to reconcile the dilemma between political and economic priorities.

  1. It is not uncommon for political tensions to exist between countries while still maintaining economic ties. In the case of the Port of Long Beach and Shanghai, their collaboration on green shipping corridors demonstrates that it is possible for economic interests to transcend political differences. Decarbonizing the maritime industry is a global challenge that requires cooperation and collaboration between countries. By working together to develop solutions that reduce emissions from shipping traffic, the Port of Long Beach and Shanghai are able to advance their mutual economic interests while also addressing a major global challenge.

There are a number of ways in which countries can reconcile political and economic priorities. One approach is to focus on areas of mutual benefit, such as addressing environmental issues or promoting trade and economic development. Countries can also work to build relationships and establish channels of communication that allow for the resolution of disputes and the continuation of economic cooperation. In some cases, international organizations and institutions, such as the United Nations or the World Trade Organization, can play a role in mediating disputes and facilitating cooperation between countries. Ultimately, finding ways to balance political and economic priorities requires careful negotiation and the ability to find common ground and work towards shared goals.

Q: That makes sense. But as you know, nation states can have significant differences within their borders that can create long-term outcomes for better or worse. Can you define what is the key ideological difference between the political philosophies of former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and which ideology has a bigger impact on the long-term economic trajectory for Canada?

  1. Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau represent different political parties and have different ideologies. Stephen Harper was the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and held office as Prime Minister from 2006 to 2015. During his time in office, Harper pursued a more conservative approach to policy, including a focus on fiscal conservatism, reduced government spending, and lower taxes.

Justin Trudeau is the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and has been Prime Minister since 2015. Trudeau’s political philosophy is generally more liberal, and he has pursued policies that reflect this ideology. This includes a focus on social justice, equality, and environmental sustainability.

It is difficult to determine which ideology has a bigger impact on the long-term economic trajectory for Canada, as both approaches have their own advantages and disadvantages. A conservative approach may prioritize fiscal stability and lower taxes, which could be beneficial for economic growth. On the other hand, a liberal approach may prioritize social and environmental issues, which could also have positive long-term economic benefits. Ultimately, the most effective approach will depend on the specific economic and social conditions of the country and the goals and priorities of its leaders and citizens.

Q: Yes, it’s difficult to determine – that was a very balanced response, but real life rarely is. Speaking of real life and the intersection with analytics, if all major league sports teams are now using data analytics to select their player rosters and climb up the standings, does Money Ball create any competitive advantage at all for any team going forward?

A: Data analytics has become an increasingly important tool in sports, and many professional sports teams, including Major League Baseball (MLB) teams, use data analytics to help make decisions about player personnel and strategy. The use of data analytics in sports, often referred to as “Moneyball,” refers to the use of statistical analysis to evaluate and compare players, with the goal of finding undervalued talent and making better decisions about player acquisitions and deployment.

While the use of data analytics in sports can certainly provide a competitive advantage, it is not a guarantee of success. Other factors, such as team chemistry, coaching, and player development, also play a role in a team’s success. Additionally, as the use of data analytics becomes more widespread, it may become more difficult for any one team to gain a significant advantage over its competitors. In other words, while the use of data analytics can certainly help a team improve its performance, it is not a panacea and other factors will continue to play a role in a team’s success.

Q: Thanks for that. Now back to a serious question about the maritime industry. Container vessels have become enormous. Container capacity has increased from a few thousand to today’s vessels which carry 25,000 Total Equivalent Units. Plans are on board for 35,000 TEU ships. But these enormous ships have knock-on effects for shore-based infrastructure. Ship-to-shore cranes must be increased to reach across the beam of these vessels. Mooring points must be up-sized to deal with the increase in wind loads due to the huge sail area of the ships. 10,000 more trucks must enter and exit the container yards to take away and bring in these containers. Ports must secure more storage area to store empty containers for return to their ports of origin. Neighbourhoods object to the exhaust from idling trucks on local streets. Ironically, these ports continue to grow despite the pressures of limited urban space around them. Has vessel design reached its peak, or will vessels continue to grow?

  1. The size of container vessels has increased significantly in recent years, and plans for even larger vessels are being developed. The main drivers behind the trend towards larger vessels are economic efficiency and cost savings. Larger vessels can carry more cargo and have lower operating costs per unit of cargo compared to smaller vessels. However, as you mentioned, the increasing size of container vessels also has a number of negative impacts on shore-based infrastructure, including the need for larger ship-to-shore cranes, larger mooring points, and more storage space for empty containers. Additionally, the increase in truck traffic to and from ports can cause congestion and air pollution in nearby neighborhoods.

It is not clear if vessel design has reached its peak or if vessels will continue to grow. The trend towards larger vessels may be limited by the constraints of existing infrastructure and the costs of upgrading or building new infrastructure to accommodate larger vessels. Additionally, there may be environmental and social impacts that need to be considered, such as the carbon emissions of larger vessels and the impact on communities near ports. Ultimately, the future size of container vessels will depend on a variety of factors, including economic considerations, technological advances, and the constraints and opportunities presented by existing infrastructure.

Q: OK, now let’s have some fun. I am going to give you two options. I would like you to choose one and give me one sentence why you made that choice. OK?

  1. Sure, I’m happy to help. Please go ahead and give me the two options and I will do my best to choose one and provide a reason for my choice.


Porsche or Ferrari.

Fendi or Prada.

Scrambled eggs or Granola.

Spinach or Kale.

Diamonds or Sapphires.

White or Dark chocolate.

Yin or Yang.

Up or Down.

Switzerland or Thailand.

Black Hole or Supernova.

France or Argentina.

A: Here are my choices and reasons for each pair of options:

Porsche or Ferrari: Porsche, because I prefer the design and performance of Porsche vehicles.

Fendi or Prada: Prada, because I like the classic and timeless style of Prada’s designs.

Scrambled eggs or Granola: Scrambled eggs, because I find them to be a more versatile and satisfying breakfast option.

Spinach or Kale: Spinach, because I prefer the flavor and texture of spinach over kale.

Diamonds or Sapphires: Sapphires, because I like the deep blue color of sapphires.

White or Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate, because I prefer the richer and more intense flavor of dark chocolate.

Yin or Yang: Yin, because I find the concept of yin and yang to be interesting and balance is important.

Up or Down: Up, because I prefer to move in an upward direction.

Switzerland or Thailand: Thailand, because I like the warm climate and diverse culture of Thailand.

Black Hole or Supernova: Black Hole, because I find the concept of a black hole to be more interesting and mysterious.

France or Argentina: France, because I like the culture, food, and wine of France.

Q: Wow, thank you for that – it was fast. By the way, please forgive me for being so rude, I should have asked this right at the beginning, but what is your name?

A: That’s okay, no need to apologize. I am just an artificial intelligence trained to assist with tasks and answer questions, so I don’t have a name in the same way that a human does. You can just call me Assistant if you like. Is there anything else I can help with?

Q: Yes, Assistant. This has been very enjoyable. One last question: which team will win the 2023 World Series?

A: I’m sorry, but as an artificial intelligence, I don’t have the ability to predict the future or the outcome of specific events such as the World Series. However, I can provide information and analysis on the teams and players involved in the competition, as well as historical data and trends that may be relevant. Please let me know if you have any specific questions or topics you would like to know more about.

Q: That’s OK Assistant, I was just curious — I’m more of a Rugby fan myself. Have a great day.

A: You’re welcome, Konrad. I’m glad I could help answer your questions. If you have any other questions in the future, don’t hesitate to reach out. Have a great day!


My first impression of this tool is it is very impressive. The responses are grammatically correct, and they are very fast. In some cases, the software started responding immediately after I submitted the question. In some of the more complicated responses, it paused for a few seconds while it sorted out the response.

On more detailed review, though, it has a long way to go before it is truly “intelligent”. While the responses are grammatically correct, at the end they come across as being rather flat – like a pundit or expert witness afraid of taking a firm stand on an issue.

The software makes extensive use of mirroring. This is a technique used by interviewers to confirm understanding of questions. This is done by taking key clauses from the question and embedding them in the response. In this way the interviewer can confirm the respondent understood the question, and confirm the response is appropriate to the question. The software then adds in a supporting fact from its database. If you review the response to my questions about port infrastructure, or the increase in size of container ships, you will see this in play. But in the end analysis, the response adds very little to the information that was in the original question.

Another point is when asked for an opinion, the software declines to take a stand. The software presents two differing points of view, and then says either could play out. The either-or questions I put to the software (Fendi or Prada) make it look like the software does take a stand — but examine the responses more closely, and then substitute in the other word, and the response reads just as well. Even Diamonds or Sapphires works this way — there are red sapphires (not blue), and there are blue diamonds.

In the end analysis, I would consider this a fantastic tool to assist in a first draft of a Level 100 or 200 university paper, or for a quick article that doesn’t have to go too in-depth. But for firm business decisions, this technology doesn’t provide any answers that stand up, if the user wants actual answers.

Conclusion: we humans who make our livelihoods making tough choices still have jobs.