The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport will partner with a leading shipping firm to put “self-driving ships,” which will be navigated via communications from the ground, into service by 2025. The plan is aimed at addressing personnel shortages as well as bolstering seaborne transportation safety. The MLIT will promote efforts to make international transportation rules, while the shipping firm will accelerate technological development.
By this spring, the MLIT will map out a timetable for commercialization. In the U.K. and other European nations, projects are underway to develop autonomous vessels.
But the existing international rules do not factor in ships that are operated remotely. The MLIT will examine the accuracy of communication data that will be used to ensure ships are operated safely, hoping to lead efforts to make new rules concerning autonomous ships at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which oversees rule-making.
NYK Line will step up R&D efforts on autonomous ships to reduce the burden on crew members on watch around the clock and downsize other operations. It will develop a program that can automatically detect a possible collision with other ships and floating wreckage and can remotely control a ship if a collision is likely. But it does not plan to develop completely autonomous ships, as crews are needed to cope with accidents. (Abridged)