madrid ferretti convergence
Stefano de Vivo welcomed an audience of 200 to Ferretti Convergence 2024 in Madrid.

Ferretti Convergence 2024: AI will not take over from captains

14 March 2024 • by Nick Jeffery

The 17th edition of Convergence took place from 5 to 8 March and saw 130 captains and chief engineers, plus 70 sponsors, panellists and Ferretti Group representatives, gather in Madrid with the aim of "analysing new developments in the industry that also affect individual professionals".

Stefano de Vivo, COO, presented Ferretti Group's financial overview, including details of the company’s arrival on the stock market in Milan in June 2023 and the geographical market spread by net revenues. He also touched on new models, current projects and innovations that the Group is working on. He kicked off day two's AI panel discussion by welcoming Professor Blaž Zupan, of the University of Ljubljana, to the stage. Zupan, a teacher of artificial intelligence, machine learning, data mining and bioinformatics, explained that AI can aid with decision-making but will not replace human-led choices entirely.

Artificial Intelligence's influence on yachting was a hot topic.

A live laptop demonstration, showing how images can be turned into sets of analysable numbers, allowed the Professor to gauge the audience's knowledge while sharing his.  The demonstration touched on polynomial classification and used an app to take a poll of the delegates.

The AI panel claimed that gathering data accounts for 65 per cent of the complexity of AI work (and 80 per cent of the cost), while analysing data is only 35 per cent. They showed how large sets of data can be used to predict failure – of components rather than captains or engineers – and thus pre-empt it.

At a recent urology conference in Houston, that Professor Zûpan spoke at, a statement was made: "AI will not replace a urologist – a urologist with AI will replace a urologist". Professor Zûpan summed up: "It is time to start using AI – we must not be afraid".

The Artificial Intelligence panel included Professor Blaž Zupan (red shoes).

Speaking to BOATPro, de Vivo said that, even though sailing boats represent a small proportion of the Ferretti Group fleet, route planning could be enhanced by meteorological data sharing, as is already being done with commercial ships – more of which are using wind power to save fuel. "If the boats and ships become beacons (for sea states and wind) and we share, anonymously, this data it could help choose to go one route over another".

At Convergence, feedback from delegates with their thoughts and ideas is acted upon. De Vivo said: "Every year since we started, this is is a priority – it would be a waste not to. We have 130 captains and chief engineers in the same room, who can interact with specialists or suppliers, who don't necessarily work for or with us. Last year there was discussion of slowing down the top speed of some models and we have started doing that. It was a bit of a validation in fact as we had already considered that".

Ferretti Group's Innovation Overview included Energy Transition.

Asking De Vivo whether the afternoon's panel discussion on coatings, including paint, nano technology, foils, wrappings and ceramics, might mean optional extra coatings would be offered to buyers, he replied that, "our technical people were listening closely – we'll do testing as we do not launch a product that is not certified," adding that, "even if we decide not to do something you have a 130 captains that understand why – so it helps them propagate the reasons by word of mouth".

When challenged on GRP boats reaching "end of life", De Vivo was upbeat about its use, retorting: "We have established that GRP does not have a life end! It's like steel and aluminium if you maintain it. Mechanically GRP has proven to be immortal. GRP boats started in the 60s with the likes of Riva and Swan. So we are now over 60 years old and the boats are still going".

De Vivo believes cyber security and piracy might return as topics in the future. This was backed up by Captain Bill Bailey – build captain for a 70-metre at CRN, designed by Vripack – who said "cyber security is a really big issue", adding that physical safety on a boat is one of his priorities: "My concern is always stability and safety, guest movement, moving small children around a boat is always an issue". Bailey explained how cyber security is taken care of by the "switched on" navigation and communications specialists, adding that, "CRN has a big engineering department with some really clever people”.

130 captains and engineers attended Ferretti Convergence 2024

On layout or product changes, Bailey said that "engineers can put all details on screen with 3D modelling and show how it all fits together". Shipyards tend to have preferred suppliers of equipment but the owner's team can suggest others. De Vivo explained that, as well as having a vast library of product drawings, Ferretti Engineering Department patents its own in-house designs for systems before getting contractors to build them.

The event's main sponsors were MAN, MTU, RINA, Sleipner, Volvo Penta and Xenta. Technical sponsors Amare Group, Asea Power System, Fratelli Canalicchio and Simrad.

On day three, following an evening watching flamenco dancing, captains and engineers were split into teams for an outdoor team-building quiz in Madrid's beautiful El Retiro park – a UNESCO World Heritage site.