Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co. and Shin Nihonkai Ferry have been approved for grant funding from The Nippon Foundation in Japan, to support a project to develop and test technologies to enable unmanned ship navigation.
Once a prototype system is developed by the two firms it will be installed on a large high-speed car ferry for demonstration testing in Japanese coastal waters, to verify the effectiveness of the technology. The proposed ship is currently being built for Shin Nihonkai Ferry at the Tategami Main Plant, located at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ (MHI) Nagasaki Shipyard & Machinery Works.
In addition to Mitsubishi Shipbuilding and Shin Nihonkai Ferry, invitations to take part in the development of the autonomous system will be extended to academic institutions, IT companies and control system engineering firms to add additional expertise to the project.
Remote diagnosis technologies originally developed by MHI Group for large-scale equipment will also be integrated, to support unmanned operation of the ship’s propulsion plant.
Demonstration testing of the new unmanned navigation system is expected to last for approximately one year, scheduled to start with the ship’s delivery at the end of June 2021 and run through until May 2022. During the testing phase crew will continue to work on board to monitor operations and ensure safety, the partners said.
The funding for the project has been granted under The Nippon Foundation’s Joint Technological Development Programme for the Demonstration of Unmanned Ships programme.