China launches its first autonomous container ship service

China is reported to have put into commercial service the world’s first autonomous, electric container feeder ship. The vessel, the Zhi Fei (MMSI 413286730), was reported to be a demonstration ship that would provide significant learning for the future development of the technology. The vessel was built by the Qingdao Shipyard.

The Zhi Fei commenced its first regular voyage on April 22nd. The 8,000 dwt vessel was reported to have a capacity of about 300 teu. The vessel is 384ft long, with a beam of 57ft and a depth of approximately 32ft.

The DC electric system propulsion gives the feeder ship a top speed of approximately 12 knots and a normal operating speed of 8 knots.

The design for the vessel was led by Bestway, in cooperation with Shanghai Jiahao Ship Design Institute and the Dalian Maritime University. The initial construction contract was signed at the end of 2019 with work beginning in May 2020. The vessel was launched in April 2021, after which there were sea trials in June and testing on the systems from last September. Technical evaluation was completed in March this year. The vessel was now operating between Qingdao Port in Shandong Province and Dongjiakou, managed by Navigation Brilliance (BRINAV).

The containership can operate in the modes of manned driving, remote driving, and unmanned driving.

As of April 27th the vessel was moored in Rizhao, having arrived from Qingdao on April 27th.