Hyundai Mipo Dockyard

Hyundai Mipo completes South Korea’s first autonomous vessel

South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Mipo Dockyard (HMD) has unveiled the country’s first pilot vessel intended for autonomous navigation.

Courtesy of Hyundai Mipo Dockyard

On March 8, 2024, the shipbuilder held a naming ceremony for two simultaneously built 1,800 TEU containerships, Pos Singapore — South Korea’s first demonstration ship intended for autonomous operation — and Pos Laemchabang.

The two units were ordered by South Korean shipping company Pan Ocean in April 2022. The Liberia-flagged Handy containerships feature a length of 172 meters, a width of 27.4 meters and can carry 1,800 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).

Both newbuilds are equipped with several eco-friendly technologies such as exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCSs) or scrubbers and ballast water treatment systems (BWTSs).

Pos Singapore will verify core autonomous operation technologies such as the intelligent navigation system and engine automation system being developed in Korea, HMD, which is an affiliate of HD Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering, explained.

Back in 2020, the country’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF) and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) launched the ‘Autonomous Ship Technology Development Project Integrated Project Team’ to support the development of core technologies by domestic industry-academia research institutes.

Various sea tests are being conducted on the recently built Pos Singapore to improve crew safety. The plan is to realize ‘degree 3 autonomous operation’. According to the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) regulatory framework for Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS), degree 3 of autonomy is for a remotely controlled ship without seafarers on board — the ship is controlled and operated from another location without seafarers on board.

“We hope that the demonstration vessel built this time will contribute to the development of domestic technology for autonomous operation and contribute to the development of Korea’s shipbuilding and shipping industry in the future,” an official from HMD said.

Pos Singapore is expected to be delivered to Pan Ocean later this month.

Last year, South Korean government revealed plans to invest KRW 710 billion ($545 million) into next-generation shipbuilding technology and carbon-free fuels. Among other projects, the government will push for early commercialization of autonomous self-navigating ships.

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