Maritime

Autonomous Cargo Ship experiments launching in Japan and Norway

After autonomous cars, trucks, shuttles, tractors, industrial vehicles and flying machines we will now also have autonomous ships. In Japan, a consortium led by the shipping company Nippon Yusen and with the support of the Nippon Foundation will sail an unmanned cargo ship 380 kilometers in February 2022.

It will leave Tokyo to go to Ise, crossing a busy trade route. In the event of a problem, a shore crew will be able to take over remote control. Nippon Yusen aims to transform half of its fleet into autonomous ships by 2040.

Another autonomous cargo ship is expected to set sail in Norway, CNN reports . Developed by the manufacturer Vard, the chemist Yara International and the technology company Kongsberg Maritime, this 80-meter-long container ship is the first electric autonomous vessel, equipped with a battery 1000 times more powerful than that of an electric car. It is recharged at the dock.

It will join two Norwegian cities before the end of the year, with a reduced crew on board, and three control centers on land to supervise it. Christened Yara Birkeland, the container ship should have made its first trip last year, but the experiment was postponed because of the Covid-19.

In 2018, an autonomous ferry designed by Rolls Royce had traveled just under 2 km in Finnish waters. The launching of autonomous vessels poses various technical problems. On the one hand, they must be equipped with self-diagnostic solutions to detect possible maintenance problems. On the other hand, they must be able to communicate with each other to ensure that they do not collide. 

Finally, there is the question of regulation in international and territorial waters.

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