Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. (MOL; President & CEO: Takeshi Hashimoto) reported today that a successful sea trial of autonomous sailing using a large commercial coastal car ferry from Tomakomai Port, Hokkaido Prefecture to Oarai Port, Ibaraki Prefecture was completed. The trial took place on February 6 and 7, as part of the MEGURI2040 unmanned ship project of the Nippon Foundation.
The test followed the real business route of the ferry Sunflower Shiretoko, reaching a distance of around 750 kilometers in about 18 hours, a world record for autonomous sailing.
The significance of this test is that it confirms that the development parts “Autonomous Berthing and Unberthing Technology,” “Autonomous Collision Avoidance Routing System,” and “Target Visual Image Processing and Ranging Technology” functioned smoothly even after such a long journey.
MEGURI2040 has been doing numerous elemental experiments to attain autonomous sailing from its commencement in 2020. The sea trial using the car ferry was carried out after verifying features such as autonomous collision avoidance using a simulator owned by MOL Marine & Engineering Co., Ltd. and element tests on a real ship, as was the case with the coastal containership that succeeded in the sea trial of autonomous sailing on January 24-25, 2022.
Following a successful test of autonomous sailing with a coastal containership, the coastal vehicle ferry was put to the test at sea. Based on the success of these experiments, we believe that autonomous sailing might be possible on any ship by installing essential equipment.
At the moment, issues such as improving sensing technology and bringing collision avoidance routes even closer to the sensations of crew members are being addressed, and the consortium is working to reduce the workload on seafarers and ensure safe, secure marine traffic by combining knowledge gained through MEGURI2040 initiatives to realize autonomous sailing activities with AI technologies such as computer vision.
Image: The Sunflower Shiretoko, the large coastal car ferry used for the trial of autonomous sailing.