‘K’ Line completes 1,600km autonomous vessel test voyage

Japanese shipping company ‘K’ Line reports that it has completed successful demonstration tests of autonomous operations of a Ro-Ro ship on a round-trip route of approximately 1,600 km between Hitachi Port and Kushiro Port, its existing service route.

The test voyage was carried out as part of the MEGURI 2040 Fully Autonomous Ship Project run by the Nippon Foundation.

The autonomous navigation system was installed on the 11,413 gross-ton Hokuren Maru No. 2, operated by Kawasaki Kinkai Kisen, for a total of three voyages starting on October 1, 2023. The company says that it was able to confirm satisfactory object recognition, analysis, and decision making by the autonomous navigation system in coastal navigation.

The autonomous navigation system was used to navigate along the route while crew carried out their ususal navigation tasks. In situations where avoidance manoeuvres were necessary, the autonomous navigation system proposed avoidance routes and controlled steering to safely avoid other vessels.

The autonomous navigation system has achieved an average system operation rate of approximately 96% in the sea area set as the Operational Design Domain (ODD), ‘K’ Line notes.

“We will continue to enhance the onboard system based on the research and development achievements thus far and develop an automatic vessel speed control system in preparation for the 2025 sea demonstration test. Our goal is to create an autonomous navigation system with high versatility that can be implemented in various types of vessels,” the company said, in a statement.

“Furthermore, we will work on the development of an off board system and ship-to-shore communication systems, aiming to establish continuous monitoring of vessel conditions from shore and provide navigational assistance. We will focus on the development and demonstration of ship-to-shore coordination technology.”

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