MOL autonomous shipping project targets 2025 for ‘practical use’ of vessels

The Japanese Government has selected a joint demonstration project proposed by Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) and others to test automated berthing, collision avoidance and remote monitoring systems with the goal of bringing autonomous vessels into service by 2025.

A statement from MOL referred to autonomous shipping’s ability to “significantly reduce” human errors and accidents while also “reducing the workload for mariners”.

“Human errors account for 80% of marine accidents, and since automated and autonomous operations of vessels can significantly reduce human errors, they have the potential to make a great contribution to reducing marine accidents,” the statement said. “Furthermore, autonomous operations hold great promise in reducing the workload for mariners and represent a fundamental change in ocean transport.”

MOL announced its participation in the project a week after the 25 July decision by Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism, which, it said, “aims to achieve practical use of autonomous vessels by 2025” based on a target set by the Japanese Government in 2017.

MOL will partner in the project with the Mitsui E&S Shipbuilding (MES-S) arm of the Mitsui Group, Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology (TUMST), and Akishima Laboratories (a division of MES-S).

Berthing and unberthing are some of the most difficult phases of ship operation, according to the group, and the demonstration project will use seagoing vessels to test and improve autonomous technologies.

During the 2018 fiscal year, the group will conduct demonstration tests using TUMST’s training ship Shioji Maru. In 2019 tests will take place on a larger, unnamed domestic ferry vessel.

The project will leverage the MOL smart ship project’s environmental and safety technologies, MES-S Group’s ship operation dynamic positioning and control technology and TUMST’s academic knowledge of autonomous ship operations.

MOL autonomous shipping project targets 2025 for ‘practical use’ of vessels
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