Preventing shipping accidents

Port of Antwerp


Port of Antwerp


Voice2Text, Voice2DNA, Text2Decision


17 active VHF channels, 18,000 messages per day, 10 traffic controllers, 25% avoidable damage, 3 days needed to find relevant VHF fragment

The Port of Antwerp is the largest seaport in Belgium and the second largest in Europe. The port has a throughput that is well above 200 million tons per year and which is supplied by 14,000 sea-going vessels. With excellent inland shipping, rail and road connections, Antwerp plays an essential role in international trade. With all sea-going and inland vessels, the number of shipping movements in the port of Antwerp is enormous. Those moves usually go well … sometimes they don’t.

When things go wrong, things go really wrong. A collision with an object or another ship leads to major material damage, to environmental damage or to blockages resulting in costly delays. Preventing damage or being able to recover damages from the perpetrators has enormous financial benefits for the port authority. Preventing unsafe situations therefore has the highest priority. One of the ways to detect the early emergence of unsafe situations is by monitoring VHF radio traffic.

The port’s traffic controllers monitor the large quantities of VHF radio traffic. However, to continuously keep a close eye on all communication is a task of inhumane proportion. This presents an interesting opportunity for Bolesian’s intelligent technologies.

Together with the Port of Antwerp we did a Proof of Value. Previous tests within the port organization had not led to satisfactory results. We knew beforehand that it would be a tough nut to crack. An extra incentive for the language specialists at Bolesian to go all out.

Countless hours of VHF recordings have been analyzed. Our state of the art technology for Speech2Text (S2T) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) was deployed. Many experts have been vetted by Bolesian’s knowledge analysts to model their expertise. The results are astonishing. We analyze with great precision what is said, who says it and how it is said, leading to validated classifications of unsafe situations on the water. In this way, Bolesian contributes to safer shipping traffic in the port of Antwerp. Value proven.