NYK conducts autonomous vessel tests using IMO guidelines

Japanese shipping company NYK reports that has concluded a series of autonomous vessel tests with ships configured to comply with the IMO’s Interim Guidelines for MASS (Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships) trials, as it pushes ahead with plans to eventually introduce a series of manned autonomous ships to improve safety and reduce crew workloads.

Navigation on board the Iris Leader, an NYK-operated PCTC, was conducted using NYK’s Sherpa System for Real ship (SSR) navigation during the tests, which took place between 14 and 17 September on a voyage from Xinsha, China, to the port of Nagoya, Japan.

A second voyage from the port of Nagoya to the port of Yokohama, Japan, from 19 to 20 September was also carried out using the same technology, with crew performing their typical duties alongside the autonomous navigation technology.

During the trial, the SSR’s performance in actual sea conditions was monitored as it collected information on environmental conditions around the ship from existing navigational devices, calculated collision risks, automatically determined optimal routes and speeds, and then automatically navigated the ship.

NYK says it will now analyse the various data collected and will continue to refine the SSR into a more advanced navigation-support system, comparing the optimal course derived by the program with those calculated by human judgement.

In related news, NYK has also announced that it has entered into a capital and business tie-up with Toyokoh Inc to develop new business lines that will apply laser technologies to improve the efficiency of vessel and terminal maintenance.

Specifically, the deal will see the firms work together on the use of Toyokoh’s CoolLaser technology to remove rust on surfaces caused by ocean environments.

In August 2018, NYK signed a memorandum of understanding with Toyokoh to jointly explore the development of a corrosion-prevention business, and technical experiments conducted afterward examined the benefits of reducing the on-deck maintenance workload of crew members, extending the lives of ships and equipment, and reducing environmental loads during dry-dock.

NYK says it will now look to apply its accumulated data to introduce the CoolLaser technology into the maritime sector with the aim of commercialising its use in maintenance processes, and potentially build it into automated systems in the future.