World’s first port-to-port unmanned containership trial is claimed

A Japanese consortium coordinated by Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd (MOL) has successfully concluded what was claimed to be the world’s first port-to-port unmanned containership sea trial.

The trial took place between Tsuruga Port in Fukui Prefecture and Sakai Port in Tottori Prefecture on January 24th and 25th as part of a project led by the Nippon Foundation.

The consortium is conducting sea trials with two different types of ship – a coastal containership and a coastal car ferry. The aim is to use the results to develop versatile technologies by identifying similarities and differences between the two ship types.

The initial trial, with the Imoto Ship Company coastal containership Mikage (IMO 9815367), covered autonomous berthing/unberthing and automated mooring. A drone was used to carry the heaving line ashore.

The ship followed a previously formulated route using the autonomous ship operation control system developed by consortium member Mitsui E&S Shipbuilding Co Ltd.

Information on other ships and obstacles/debris on the set route was gathered by consortium member Furuno Electric’s autonomous surrounding information integration system, which measures and displays positions, speed, types of nearby ships, and position of obstacles/debris by integrating information gained by cognition through radar, AIS, and camera images.

The ship safely navigated the route formulated by the autonomous collision avoidance routing system.

The autonomous berthing and unberthing procedures were complex. Mikage berthed and unberthed using information from the Furuno Electric-developed berthing/unberthing support solution. This calculates and visually displays accurate relative distances and relative angles between the pier and hull from information gathered by LiDAR/camera/satellite compass.

In this sea trial, an ALI Technologies-developed automatic flight drone carried the heaving line to the pier.

Trials using MOL Ferry’s coastal car ferry Sunflower Shiretoko between the ports of Tomokimai and Oarai are set for next month.

2015-built, Japan-flagged, 749 gt Mikage is owned by Imoto Senpaku KK care of manager Imoto Lines Ltd of Chuo-ku, Kobe-shi, Hyogo-ken, Japan.