Mitsubishi Shipbuilding and Shin Nihonkai Ferry will use a grant from The Nippon Foundation to develop ‘underlying technologies’ for unmanned ship navigation which they will test out on a vessel operating in Japanese coastal waters.
In a statement issue on Friday (12 June), Mitsubishi said that prototype system will be installed in a large high-speed car ferry ordered by Shin Nihonkai Ferry, to be built at the Tategami Main Plant of MHI's Nagasaki Shipyard & Machinery Works.
The ferry is scheduled to be delivered at the end of June 2021 and the tests will run for about a year, through to May 2022.
Mitsubishi Shipbuilding has been working on automation systems to assist ship navigation since the 1990s – but the new project with Shin Nihonkai Ferry is looking to demonstrate a ‘comprehensive system enabling totally unmanned navigation’.
Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL) has also announced that two of its companies are also part of a consortium that has applied for funding from the Nippon Foundation for demonstration voyages to test underlying technologies for autonomous sailing within fiscal year 2020.
In a statement issued today (15 June), MOL said: 'The demonstration voyages will be conducted with an MOL Ferry-owned/operated large-scale coastal ferry and a coastal containership owned by Imoto Corporation and operated by Imoto Lines, Ltd., using surrounding cognitive technology based on Furuno Electric-developed and owned sensors and Mitsui E&S-developed/owned ship handling for avoidance and auto berthing/unberthing technologies, after MOL Marine conducts autonomous functions using a simulator. In addition, mooring support technology using a drone, developed by Sekido, will be introduced in the demonstration voyage of the coastal containership.'
In addition, NYK announced that its companies Japan Marine Science Inc. (JMS) and MTI Co., Ltd. are also participating in the Nippon Foundation's Designing the Future of Full Autonomous Ship (DFFAS) Project, which is drawing participation from more than 22 domestic Japanese companies.