Collaboration in Japanese tech development explored in new study

A study commissioned by Inmarsat examining the development of new technologies by the maritime sector in Japan has highlighted the role of cross-industry collaboration in driving the country’s early successes in introducing Internet of Things (IoT) and data analysis systems to monitor and improve vessel operations.

The report, titled ‘A quiet revolution – the maritime innovation ecosystem in Japan’, was written by Nick Chubb, Director of Thetius Maritime Innovation Intelligence, and Leonardo Zangrando Managing Director of Startup Wharf.

The study is the first of a planned series of profiles into maritime technology and start-ups in specific countries, building on the ‘Trade 2.0: How start-ups are driving the next generation of maritime trade’ report published by Inmarsat during the second half of 2019.

The current study includes a focus on Japan’s three largest global shipping carriers – K Line, Mitsui OSK Line and NYK Line – and examines the wide range of data sharing projects the companies are working on to enable optimised vessel performance, manned autonomous ships and decarbonisation.

Examples include K Line’s work with Kawasaki Heavy Industries to develop a ship performance optimisation platform for management of biofouling, trim optimisation, and crew workload, while MOL has joined forces with the National Maritime Research Institute and Furuno to develop augmented reality for navigation support for 21 very large crude carriers (VLCC).

NYK has also created a range of partnerships to support its technology development, with the company’s current onboard IoT platform the result of a collaborative effort involving Monohakobi Technology Institute (MTI), Nippon Telegraph and Telephone and NTT Data.

“Partnerships have been the bedrock for digitalisation in Japan. As the leading provider of high-speed maritime broadband connectivity via Fleet Xpress, we work closely with the large corporate enterprises pushing the technological envelope,” said Ronald Spithout, President of Inmarsat Maritime.

“However, this new report highlights other important relationships that are also shaping Japan’s digital future, including those outside of conventional networks, such as the E5 Lab on autonomous vessels, the Ship Data Center and the Maritime Innovation Japan Corporation.”

Inmarsat began working with Ship Data Center (ShipDC) earlier this year, a non-profit subsidiary of classification society ClassNK providing the background infrastructure for the Internet of Ships Open Platform (IoS-OP), an initiative created by a cross-industry coalition of Japanese maritime industry stakeholders.

ShipDC acts as a central hub to integrate operational data from multiple fleets and make it available for sharing with any third parties the vessel operator chooses – Japanese alliance ONE, for example, uses the IoS-OP to share data with K Line, MOL and NYK respectively across the ONE container fleet, for fleet performance benchmarking.

Other partnerships highlighted in the study include NYK Line’s work with Transnational Diversified Group Maritime and start-up MarcoPay to enable electronic seafarer salary payments; a project involving MOL and Sensetime examining image-based collision avoidance; and the creation of Symphony Creative Solutions by NYK Group, Weathernews, and Kozo Keikaku Engineering to help Singaporean start-ups engage with Japanese maritime interests.

“Now is an ideal moment for a report exploring the way Japanese maritime stakeholders are engaging in new partnerships, including with start-ups outside Japan,” added Mr Spithout.

“We have also seen the Japanese government attempting to grow the local start-up ecosystem through its J-Startup programmes, resulting in rising interest from local and international venture investors. Japan’s maritime technology sector is worth $8.8 billion today and is projected as growing to $15.8 billion in value by 2030.”

The report is available free for download by visiting the website here (or here for the Japanese language version).

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Rob O'Dwyer

Rob is Chief Network Officer and one of the founders of Smart Maritime Network. He also serves as Chairman of the Smart Maritime Council. Rob has worked in the maritime technology sector since 2005, managing editorial for a range of leading publications in the transport and logistics sector. Get in touch by email by clicking here, or on LinkedIn by clicking here.

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