Felicity Ace on fire
Felicity Ace on fire last year

MOL is to equip several of its newbuild ro-ro vessels with an AI-driven system for early fire detection to stem the increasing epidemic of fires destroying car-carriers.

Israeli company Captain’s Eye claims to have developed an AI system that can detect fires by interpreting abnormal images caught by cameras installed throughout a vessel, operating 24/7.

A cloud of smoke could be detected before it reached a conventional smoke detector, it says, allowing for earlier warnings and faster response.

MOL said the system would be installed on ten LNG-fuelled vessels due for delivery from 2024, and would consider retrofitting its existing fleet.

MOL has already suffered the total loss of one of its car carriers, Felicity Ace, from a catastrophic fire. The ship was carrying lithium battery electric vehicles (EVs) and there was a large cryogenic tank of pressurised LNG aboard.

Founded in 2020 by Uri Ben-Dor and Doron Oizerovich, Captain’s Eye began developing AI-enabled CCTV monitoring for super-yachts, and branched out into the commercial maritime arena, including systems for detecting leaks in engine rooms.

As well as conducting tests of the system on MOL car carrier Onyx Ace, Captain’s Eye has a strategic partnership with XT Shipping, and a demonstration project at the port of Ashdod.

In 2022, the company raised $4m in investment from SixAI, an Israeli start-up focused on commercialising technology developed by the Israeli military and repurposed for civilian uses.

WWhile car manufacturers insist EVs do not catch fire with any greater regularity than internal combustion engined cars, there can be little argument that the presence of EVs exacerbates the danger. Following the loss last year of the 6,400 ceu Felicity Ace, which sank in the mid-Atlantic, car-carriers Grande Costa d’Avorio, and Fremantle Highway have suffered similar catastrophic blazes, claiming several lives.

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