MOL Tests AI Watch Keeping System on Ferry in Seto Inland Sea

MOL itelligent awareness system
Image credit: MOL/Rolls-Royce

Japanese shipping group MOL has tested an artificial intelligence (A.I.) system aimed at improving safe watch keeping on board a ferry operating in one of Japan’s busiest waterways.

The test of the so-called Intelligence Awareness System was conducted in collaboration with Rolls-Royce Marine using the Sunflower car and passenger ferry. The ferry, which is operated by Ferry Sunflower Co., which is part of MOL, serves Japan’s Seto Inland Sea route.

MOL said the aim of the project is to conduct research related to the advancement of watch keeping from the bridge.

“MOL is aiming for safer and more efficient vessel operation and takes a proactive stance on research and development of autonomous ships,” the company said in a press release. “Autonomous sailing requires underlying technologies such as advancement and automation of watch keeping, remote and automated ship operation (automatic collision avoidance while underway), automatic docking/undocking, remote monitoring of machinery and equipment, cargo, and so on, and automatic telecommunication among vessels.”

During the test, the project team verified the IAS system’s performance for detecting debris and other obstacles, as well as its ‘data fusion’ capabilities by conducting the demonstration test in the Seto Inland Sea, one of world’s most congested waterways with general merchant ships, pleasure boats, fishing boats, many other vessels active in the area.

MOL said the test also led to an idea for an advanced user interface, which can provide information with greater precision. “MOL plans to continuously accumulate data on the sea and use it to generate practical improvements in watch standing performance that make the system suitable for navigation in the Seto Inland Sea, while upgrading its performance in adverse weather,” the company said.

As for the crew of the ferry, they seemed to be receptive to the idea of using artificial intelligence, an autonomous shipping technology, as part of vessel operations. “We can expect more reliable watch keeping from the bridge,” MOL quoted one crew member as saying.