ABS: Modelling the Way with Algorithms and Alliances

As part of our blog’s thought leadership series centered around sustainable shipping and decarbonisation, we recently invited Dr. Gu Hai, Vice President and Head of the Global Simulation Centre at the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), to share with us ABS’s approach to sustainability, as well as his insights on the application of machine learning.

Dr. Gu Hai, Vice President and Head of the Global Simulation Centre, ABS.

Overview on the State of Maritime Decarbonisation

How does ABS distinguish itself from other classification societies in your maritime decarbonisation services and offerings?

ABS both advises and supports the industry in its compliance with short-term energy efficiency regulations, helping to lay the groundwork for a fully sustainable industry. ABS’s analyses have helped hundreds of owners and operators comply with measures such as the EEXI and CII in ways suited for their specific fleet mix.

We also engage in research on joint industry products such as emerging alternative fuels and new decarbonisation technologies including carbon capture and the transport of hydrogen. Through these projects, ABS develops classifications for ships that will come into service in the next decade and beyond.


What are some ABS-driven initiatives toward creating an energy-efficient, low-emission maritime industry?

ABS works on initiatives to foster an energy-efficient and low-emissions maritime industry, with partners in the fields of policy, ports, operations, and science. We believe collaborative partnerships can solve the sustainability challenges faced by the industry by providing a wide scope of expertise to draw on to move forward.

We have collaborated with partners such as Mitsui & Co and Maersk Oil Trading on methanol bunkering solutions in alignment with Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore’s outlined direction.

Additionally, ABS issues approvals in principle for vessel designs such as liquefied hydrogen and carbon dioxide carriers and dual-fueled cargo ships, for major shipyards and operators.

Dr. Gu engaged in a discussion with partners on green fuel innovation.

In your opinion, what are the major obstacles hampering the green transition in maritime?

Along with technological obstacles, a main challenge for the industry is the lack of availability of sustainable marine fuels in quantities large enough for wide scale adoption. Most industry players agree that capacity building needs to happen as fast as is safely possible.

To do this, owners and operators must clearly understand the regulations they must comply with, while regulators should incentivise the adoption of clean fuels with policy signals to progressively shift the industry towards greater sustainability.

Driving Innovation and Sustainability 

As the Head of the Global Simulation Centre, how do you think machine learning has transformed the way we approach net-zero solutions?

A challenge in decarbonisation is having to understand systems, which we (maritime industry stakeholders) have a lot of data collected for but are so complex that they are nearly impossible to fully comprehend. Machine learning enables us to model the data in these complex systems without necessarily needing to know the physics behind them. Machine learning develops solutions for the complex problems of smart power management, voyage and operation optimization, and predictive maintenance, far more efficiently than traditional methods.

Dr. Gu Hai outlines key operations of the ABS Global Simulation Centre.

While machine learning is a powerful tool, we don’t expect it to be a panacea. The systems, technologies, or operational strategies for decarbonization and digitalization are so new that we may not yet have the enormous amounts of data required for machine learning modelling. In such situations, we use validated physics-based simulations to generate data for machine learning, or build hybrid models that leverage the strengths of both approaches.

A visual displaying central capabilities of ABS’s machine learning technologies.

ABS launched the ABS Global Sustainability Centre in Singapore three years ago. How will the centre enhance and augment the existing suite of sustainability solutions? 

The Sustainability Centre has enhanced and augmented our existing sustainability solutions by expanding our services into the following areas:

  1. Alternative Fuels – We have explored the adoption of alternative fuels and the feasibility of them aiding shipping in achieving near-term GHG emissions reduction and long-term net zero targets. In addition, we have studied the use of onboard carbon capture via a lifecycle cost-based techno-economic analysis.
  1. Carbon Economics – Understanding the risks and benefits of carbon economics is the key to finding a balance between the investment and return for sustainable business practices. We help to provide our clients with comprehensive studies to help them understand the impact of the carbon levy and adoption of sustainable operating practices.
  1. ESG – ABS assists shipping companies in building greener operations by adopting an enhanced focus on ESG-centered performance. We provide the industry with ESG Reporting and Assurance.

Cooperation Within the Maritime Ecosystem

With the formation of the Alliance for Future Maritime Talent (AFMT), how do you foresee ABS’ role in equipping the workforce with skills relevant in the decarbonisation space?

It is clear to both ABS and the partners in the AFMT that maritime skill sets must rapidly adapt to survive in the new digital normal. The AFMT is working closely with the industry and unions to review their adoption of skills that are becoming essential for the maritime sector. The AFMT helps to support shore-based maritime skills and facilitate a more effective sea-to-shore transition for seafarers.

As a classification society, ABS is involved with a wide range of stakeholders in the maritime value chain, throughout ships’ entire lifecycle. This positions us well to provide a holistic view of the areas in need of development amongst maritime talent.

ABS coordinates with these various stakeholders to hold programmes to connect industry areas that might otherwise remain siloed. This is especially important in the development of decarbonisation and digitalisation spaces, as these require collaboration between all stakeholders throughout the value chain to succeed.

Also, ABS collaborates with partners such as Institutes of Higher Learning to develop and conduct those courses. For example, ABS successfully developed and recently delivered the SGUP-CT course for modelling and simulation under the SGUnited Jobs and Skills initiative.

Dr. Hai Gu at the graduation ceremony for the Modeling and Simulation of Systems course, held under the SGUP-CT ABS Digitalisation Learning Program.

Finally, ABS leverages its technical capabilities to improve teaching methods for talent development. Multi-domain system simulation capabilities are being developed in the ABS Global Simulation Center. These can be used to develop simulation-based training platforms which are safer, more economical, and more effective in training workers for operations involving decarbonisation and digitalisation.

An example of a simulation-based worker training platform developed by ABS.

About the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS)

Founded in 1862, ABS is a global leader in providing classification services for marine and offshore assets. They apply advanced technology, digital tools, capabilities and improved core processes to drive safety excellence, greater performance and efficiency.

ABS is a founding partner of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and the Singapore Maritime Foundation’s (SMF) new Alliance for Future Maritime Talent (AFMT), which aims to equip Singapore’s maritime workforce with the skills it needs to respond to the rapid changes in the maritime industry.


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Mr. Lars Kastrup


Mr. Lars Kastrup is the Chief Executive Officer of Pacific International Lines (Pte) Ltd (PIL).

Prior to joining PIL, Mr. Kastrup was CEO of NOL/APL, and subsequently assumed the role of Executive Vice President, Strategy and M&A at CMA CGM Group. A veteran in the global shipping industry with over 30 years of experience, Mr Kastrup’s other roles include Executive Vice President of Assets at CMA CGM Group heading up CMA Terminals, CMA Ships, Container Logistics as well as regional carriers such as MacAndrews, OPDR and Mercosul; as well as Vice President at AP Moller-Maersk.
Mr. Kastrup complemented his tertiary education with leadership and management training at Penn State University and The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Ms. Angeline Teo


Ms. Angeline Teo is the Managing Director and Head of Global Transportation and Offshore, Global Corporate Banking at OCBC Bank which focuses on the maritime, aviation, land & port ecosystems.
Ms. Teo has spent over three decades in maritime finance. Prior to OCBC, Ms. Teo was working at ING Bank, ABN Amro and DnB in Singapore focusing on maritime and offshore.
Ms. Teo graduated from the National University of Singapore with a degree in Business Administration.

Mr. John Martin


Mr. John Martin began his career in London in 1989 with Richards Hogg Lindley Average Adjusters, and qualified as a Fellow of the UK Association of Average Adjusters in 2000.
At RHL he worked in their offices in Australia, Taiwan and Hong Kong. In 2003 he joined Gard Hong Kong, as a claims handler. Mr. Martin also worked in Gard Japan, and in 2014 he moved to Singapore to set up the Gard Singapore office.
Besides running Gard Singapore, Mr. Martin also heads the P&I and H&M claims units and is the Senior Claims Representative for Gard in Asia.

Mr. Cyril Ducau


Mr. Cyril Ducau is the Chief Executive Officer of Eastern Pacific Shipping Pte Ltd, a leading shipping company headquartered in Singapore for the past 30 years.

He is also currently the Chairman of Kenon Holdings Ltd and a member of the board of directors of Gard P&I (Bermuda) Ltd. and of the Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation Limited, which was established by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. He was previously Head of Business Development of Quantum Pacific Advisory Limited in London from 2008 to 2012 and acted as Director and Chairman of Pacific Drilling SA between 2011 and 2018.
Prior to joining Quantum Pacific Advisory Limited, Mr. Ducau was Vice President in the Investment Banking Division of Morgan Stanley & Co. International Ltd. in London between 2000 and 2008.
Mr. Ducau graduated from ESCP Europe Business School (Paris, Oxford, Berlin) and holds a Master of Science in business administration and a Diplom Kaufmann.