K Line demonstrates autonomous navigation system on large RORO

Japanese shipping company Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha (K Line) has tested an autonomous navigation system on the 11,413 gross-ton large RORO cargo ship HOKUREN MARU No. 2, operated by K-Line on a round-trip route of approximately 1,600 km between Hitachi Port and Kushiro Port.

Image credit K Line

The system was trialed in three voyages starting on October 1, 2023, as part of the Joint Technological Development Program for the Demonstration test of Fully Autonomous Ships under the MEGURI 2040 Fully Autonomous Ship Project (MEGURI2040) administered by the Nippon Foundation.

“In this time, we succeeded the sea demonstration test with PoC** stage of autonomous navigation system consisting of single function on board ship aiming to social implementation of fully autonomous ship, and we implemented on a round-trip route of approximately 1,600 km between Hitachi Port and Kushiro Port, which is the existing RORO cargo ship service route,” the company said.

Image credit K Line

K Line said that its team said it confirmed that ‘recognition, analysis, and decision making by the autonomous navigation system are executed with a high degree of accuracy in coastal navigation.’

“In the experimental route, the autonomous navigation system was used to navigate while maintaining the normal crew navigation tasks, and in situations where avoidance was necessary, the autonomous navigation system proposed avoidance routes and controlled steering to safely avoid other vessels.”

The company said that the autonomous navigation system achieved an average system operation rate of approximately 96% in the sea area set as ODD* *.

“In the future, we will utilize the data obtained from the sea demonstration tests to further enhance the autonomous navigation system, incorporating our expertise in safe operations, which is one of our strengths,” K Line said.

The company plans to continue to collaborate with Japan Radio Co., Ltd., YDK Technologies Co., and Kawasaki Kinkai Kisen to further develop a comprehensive system that contributes to the improvement of fully autonomous ships technology.

“We will continue to enhance the onboard system based on the research and development achievements thus far and develop an automatic vessel speed control system in preparation for the 2025 sea demonstration test. Our goal is to create an autonomous navigation system with high versatility that can be implemented in various types of vessels,” K Line added.

“Furthermore, we will work on the development of off board system and ship-to-shore communication systems, aiming to establish continuous monitoring of vessel conditions from shore and provide navigational assistance. We will focus on the development and demonstration of ship- to-shore coordination technology.”