The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) has introduced its Maritime Innovation Lab (MIL) with the aim of developing autonomous ship technology.

Located at PSA Vista, the lab will focus on developing new technologies and next-generation port operational capabilities.

Scheduled to become operational by 2021, the S$9.9m ($7.32m) lab will facilitate the analysis of traffic hotspots prediction, vessel routes as well as detection of potential collisions.

The MIL is expected to fast-track the development of new operational concepts and systems, and develop local technological capabilities in key areas such as automation, data analytics and intelligent systems.

A cross-agency steering committee has been established by the MPA to develop strategies, including an implementation roadmap of autonomous maritime operations and capabilities, and a regulatory sandbox.

The port authority has initiated five autonomous vessel projects worth S$7.2m ($5.32m) with a number of firms such as ST Engineering and Keppel Singmarine.

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As part of this project, ST Engineering, Mitsui, MPA, and Lloyd’s Register, will collaborate on the ocean-going autonomous vessel programme.

The programme will autonomously steer the sails of a large commercial vessel in the high seas.

“This will not only benefit global maritime operations but also address long-standing challenges of the maritime industry.”

ST Engineering will develop and install perception and navigation modules on the Singapore-flagged car carrier, owned by MV Themis and operated by Mitsui.

The ship will sail along a global route, including Suez Canal, Panama Canal, the Straits of Malacca, and Singapore. This will provide data, knowledge and test conditions for future autonomous programmes.

ST Engineering electronics president Ravinder Singh said: “Leveraging our deep engineering expertise and indigenous talent with digital core competency, we have adopted an innovative approach to offer autonomous navigation capabilities that are leading-edge and world-class.

“Together with our partners, we aim to develop smart systems to save manpower and to raise safety standards and operational efficiency for MPA and port authorities. This will not only benefit global maritime operations but also address long-standing challenges of the maritime industry.”