NYK Conducts Live Autonomous Navigation Test with PCTC

Iris Leader (file image via social media)

By The Maritime Executive 09-30-2019 09:17:28

NYK has conducted what it believes to be the first autonomous navigation trial for a large merchant vessel under the terms of IMO’s Interim Guidelines for Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships. The company seeks to deploy manned autonomous ship technology for safer operations and a reduction in crew workload, along with related technology for remote communications and support. 

For the trial, the large PCTC Iris Leader navigated autonomously using NYK's Sherpa System for Real ship (SSR) on a voyage from Xinsha, China, to the port of Nagoya, Japan, arriving September 17. She then proceeded from Nagoya to the port of Yokohama from September 19-20. The autonomous trial included both day and night operations, and it traversed areas in Japan's coastal waters (excluding bays). The crew performed their normal duties during the trial.

Over the course of the experiment, NYK monitored the SSR’s performance as it collected information from existing navigational devices, calculated collision risk, automatically determined optimal and safe routes, then automatically navigated the ship. Using data and experience gained through this trial, NYK says that it was able to evaluate its performance in a way that would not be possible with onshore simulators alone. 

NYK says that it will continue to develop the SSR into a more advanced navigation-support system by "making adjustments to the difference between the optimal course derived by the program and that determined by professional human judgment."

The project is part of a broader effort by NYK to introduce digital technology to its fleet. The line has also trialed a software docking assist system and a remote vessel control system. Its research arm, MTI Co. Ltd., has become the first Asian member of the One Sea autonomous shipping alliance.