A Japanese consortium has won a place in The Nippon Foundation-led ‘Joint Technological Development Programme for the Demonstration of Unmanned Ships’.

The consortium consists of Marubeni Corporation, Tryangle, Mitsui E&S Shipbuilding and the City of Yokosuka.

As part of the programme, the consortium will launch a pilot project to test the autonomous ship operation technology in Yokosuka City. The project financing will be supported by The Nippon Foundation.

Autonomous ships are expected to reduce the ship crew workload and increase operational safety.

The unmanned ships will offer a secure, safe and stable sea transport in the country. In cases of natural disasters, the technology will aid in the transport of essential goods.

The test will be carried out on the Mikasa Pier – Sarushima Island voyage route.

The Mitsui E&S Shipbuilding-developed autonomous ship technology will be retro-fitted on one small-sized passenger boats operated by Tryangle.

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It is expected to help achieve autonomous ship operations such as berthing and unberthing.

The ship crew will remain onboard to ensure the operational security.

The retro-fitting and operational tests are scheduled to be completed by the end of next year and the autonomous operation will be conducted by March 2022.

Last month, Japan-based classification society ClassNK granted an approval in principle (AIP) to the concept design of an autonomous ship framework.

The AIP was awarded to Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK Line) and MTI Co (MTI).

In March, IBM and UK-based marine research organisation Promare developed a new class of marine AI Captain for the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) that will power the self-steering vessel ready to go to sea for a month of testing.