Unmanned Container Ship Successfully Completes First Autonomous Sailing

The ship, named Mikage, traveled a distance of about 270 kilometers and had to deal with wind and waves in the Sea of Japan.


Japan’s Mitsui OSK Lines announced Tuesday that it has successfully completed the world’s first test of autonomous navigation of an unmanned container ship. The ship in question, named Mikage, traveled from the port of Tsuruga in Fukui Prefecture to the port of Sakai in Tottori Prefecture, covering a distance of about 270 kilometers and carrying out the mooring with the help of a drone.

The unmanned navigation test is part of the MEGURI2040 project run by The Nippon Foundation, which aims to reduce the number of accidents and eliminate labor shortages in shipping. “The autonomous navigation system, drone mooring assistance work, AR (Augmented Reality) navigation system for shore monitoring, etc. developed in this project are expected to contribute to the safe navigation of ships and reduction of the workload of people at sea,” reads the organization’s statement.

The test voyage took place on January 24 and 25 and was able to be completed smoothly despite the container ship having to contend with wind and waves in the Sea of Japan. Reports on the operation detailed that the ship sailed a safe route, previously formulated by its autonomous system that avoids collisions, analyzes positions, types and speed of other ships or different obstacles and debris.

On the other hand, the docking and undocking of the ship was carried out by means of the information gathered by a special sensor that calculates distances and angles between the dock and the hull. In addition, “automated mooring” was carried out with the help of an unmanned drone that carried the lifting line to the dock to moor the ship with a rope, without the help of a worker. “As technology advances in the future, this is expected to become an alternative approach to mooring operations, which are a great burden on mariners,” the report notes.

Source RT
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