Autonomous ferry navigation system testing completed in Japan

A Japanese consortium featuring The Nippon Foundation, Mitsubishi Shipbuilding and Shin Nihonkai Ferry has successfully completed a demonstration test of a fully autonomous ship navigation system on a large car ferry in Japan’s Iyonada Sea.

This demonstration was part of MEGURI 2040, a fully autonomous ship navigation project launched by The Nippon Foundation in February 2020. The project features five different groups that will all be conducting demonstration tests to verify their autonomous navigation system concepts through to March 2022.

This latest test took place on a 222-metre ferry over seven hours on a 240-kilometre route from Shinmoji in Northern Kyushu to Iyonada, with autonomous port berthing and unberthing using turning and reversing movements and navigation at up to 26 knots.

The autonomous system features technologies including sensors to detect other ships using infrared cameras, a remote engine monitoring system, and cyber security defences.

The newly built SOLEIL ferry began navigating with an onboard crew on July 1, 2021, compiling data for the development of the autonomous ship navigation system. Mitsubishi is responsible for the integration of the technologies featured on the ship, while Shin Nihonkai Ferry is in charge of setting the vessel’s system requirements and conducting demonstration testing.

“This demonstration test greatly accelerated the development of fully autonomous ship navigation systems using many advanced technologies including artificial intelligence. We will continue to develop technologies using the valuable knowledge gained to achieve safety and high-quality service for passenger ferries, which play an important role in supporting marine transportation in the island nation of Japan,” said Naoki Ueda, Executive Vice President, Mitsubishi Shipbuilding.

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Rob O'Dwyer

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