Mitsubishi Shipbuilding and Shin Nihonkai Ferry are to use a grant from The Nippon Foundation to develop ‘underlying technologies’ for unmanned ship navigation.
These technologies will be tested on a vessel operating in Japanese coastal waters.
Mitsubishi said that prototype system will be installed on 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.
She 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 will seek to demonstrate a ‘comprehensive system enabling totally unmanned navigation’, the company said.
Mitsui OSK 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 to undertake demonstration voyages to test underlying technologies for autonomous sailing within fiscal year 2020.
The Japanese giant said that the demonstration voyages will be conducted using an MOL Ferry-owned/operated large-scale coastal ferry and a coastal containership, using technology based on Furuno Electric-developed and owned sensors and Mitsui E&S-developed/owned shiphandling for avoidance and auto berthing/unberthing technologies, after MOL Marine conducts autonomous functions using a simulator.
In addition, NYK announced that its companies Japan Marine Science (JMS) and MTI are also participating in the Nippon Foundation’s Designing the Future of Full Autonomous Ship (DFFAS) Project, which involves participation from more than 22 domestic Japanese companies.