Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism (MLIT) has chosen a joint project comprising Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) and Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding to develop a technological concept for an autonomous ocean transport system.

The selection was carried out under MLIT’s FY2017 Transportation Research and Technology Promotion Programme, which is a competitive research funding scheme that seeks to initiate advanced research and development projects in order to address issues in the field of traffic and transportation.

A consortium of various entities from Japan, including MOL, has also been formed to research the development of the autonomous shipping system. Each of the companies and organisations involved in the initiative are expected to provide their respective skills and knowledge for the project.

The research aims to develop technology that will help realise the creation of autonomous vessels in order to provide reliable, safe and efficient ocean transport.

"The research aims to develop technology that will help realise the creation of autonomous vessels in order to provide reliable, safe, and efficient ocean transport."

It will also aid the development of various infrastructure required to facilitate autonomous shipping.

Additionally, the initiative is expected to receive public support for the implementation of advanced technologies by sharing the results of the project with the maritime industry, as well as the wider public, as the research progresses.

It will explore the potential for research and development (R&D) collaboration on business concepts, systems, infrastructure, and societal implementation related to autonomous ocean transport, which is currently being planned by Japan Ship Technology Research Association.

Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding, National Institute of Maritime, Port and Aviation Technology, Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, Nippon Kaiji Kyokai (ClassNK), Japan Ship Technology Research Association, and Akishima Laboratories (Mitsui Zosen) are also included in the project consortium, in addition to MOL.

Image: Realising reliable, safe, and efficient ocean transport system by introducing autonomous technologies. Photo: courtesy of Mitsui OSK Lines.