Japan Prepares for Autonomous Tugboat Test

Credit: NYK

By The Maritime Executive 08-11-2018 05:43:07

Japan's NYK Group companies NYK, MTI and Keihin Dock along with Japan Marine Science have been selected by Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism to participate in a remotely controlled ship demonstration project. The nations aims to begin demonstrations for the practical implementation of autonomous ships by 2025.

The companies have already been using advanced technology to develop an automated ship, including a study on collision avoidance and the development of a manned remote maneuvering system that can support a ship's crew. The system collects, integrates and analyzes information around the ship, prepares an action plan, and after the approval of operators at remote locations or on board, takes action in accordance with the plan. 

The demonstration aims to now make use of this system in an actual situation on a tugboat. After collecting data and developing a system using domestic coastal ships and tugboats, the test will be carried outin the latter half of 2019.

Companies selected to participate in the demonstration project include MTI, Nippon Kaiji Kyokai (NK), Port and Airport Research Institute, Ikous Corporation, NYK, Keihin Dock, Mitsubishi Shipbuilding, Niigata Power Systems, Uzushio Electric, SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation, Tokyo Keiki, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation, NTT DOCOMO, Japan Radio, Furuno Electric and Japan Marine Science.

Harbour tugs are viewed as likely to be one of the first vessel classes to become autonomous. In other developments to support this view, Rolls-Royce is studying automatic mooring technology as part of its autonomous tugboat concept. The company is looking at developing robotic cranes that could be used for hooking up ships to tugs during towage operations. A robotic crane could also be used for docking and line removal without the need for crew or port personnel to assist.