Japan: Large car ferry completes demo test of auto berthing, un-berthing at actual pier

Mitsui E&S Shipbuilding, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL), Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology (TUMST), Akishima Laboratories (Mitsui Zosen), and MOL Ferry have announced the success of a demonstration test of their jointly developed auto berthing and un-berthing system at an actual pier in Oarai Port, Ibaraki Prefecture, using the large-size car ferry Sunflower Shiretoko.

Back in August 2018, Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism (MLIT) selected this joint initiative for its autonomous vessel demonstration project.

As explained, this demonstration test is a world first from two aspects — the use of a large car ferry with a gross tonnage of 11,410 tons on one of its service routes and conducting the test using an actual pier.

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Specifically, the project team developed the ship operation plan, operation guide, criteria for canceling the test, etc., and used simulations to conduct a thorough safety assessment under various conditions.

In addition, the team conducted the demonstration test, verifying safety on the vessel in service by autonomously berthing and un-berthing at a virtual pier projected on the water.

Leveraging the results of this demonstration test, the project team plans to conduct demonstration tests of auto berthing and un-berthing at actual berths with other ship types, with the aim of developing a highly versatile technology, the partners said.