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Japanese shipping company Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL) is claiming to have conducted the world’s first sea trial of an unmanned autonomous containership.
The trial took place using the 2015-built feeder containership M/V Mikage, operated by Imoto Lines, from January 24-25th. The ship departed on a pre-formulated route from Tsuruga Port in Japan’s Fukui Prefecture, arriving in Sakai Port in Tottori Prefecture – a distance covering a few hundred miles.
The voyage utilized Mitsui E&S Shipbuilding’s autonomous ship operation control system, taking into account a number of variables including ship location, external elements such as wind, tides, and current, ship handling elements, and navigational rules and regulations.
Information on other ships and obstacles on the set route was gathered by a Furuno Electric-developed autonomous surrounding information integration system, which measures and displays positions, speed, types of nearby ships, and position of obstacles/debris using radar, AIS, and camera images.
The ship also performed autonomous berthing and unberthing using Furuno Electric-developed berthing/unberthing support sensor, which includes equipment that calculates and visually displays accurate relative distances and relative angles between the pier and hull from information gathered by LiDAR/camera/satellite compass.
“Automated mooring” was another element of the project. During the sea trial, a drone was actually used to carry the heaving line to the pier, as opposed to being tossed by a crewmember.
The trial was conducted as part the unmanned ship project MEGURI2040 led by The Nippon Foundation, which earlier this month also tested the operation of an autonomous car ferry.
In addition to MOL, Imoto Lines, Furuno-Electric, and Mitsui E&S Shipbuilding, other partners in the project include A.L.I. Technologies, MOL Ferry Co, and MOL Marine & Engineering Co.
Another autonomous demonstration using coastal car ferry Sunflower Shiretoko is planed for next month on a route from Tomakomai to Oarai.
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