NYK’s autonomous ship framework gets ClassNK AiP
Classification society ClassNK has granted approval in principle (AiP) to Japanese shipping major Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK Line) and its group company MTI Co., Ltd. for their joint project on the concept design of an autonomous ship framework being developed under the name of APExS.
The Japan-based classification society reviewed the safety of the framework and certified the concept design on 20 February 2020 — the first time for an autonomous ship framework to be approved in Japan.
To develop an autonomous ship framework, NYK has been working with ClassNK to verify the safety of system usage conditions and fallback systems. With respect to communication concerns between humans and computers, risk can be mitigated to an acceptable level and human error significantly diminished through proper design, procedures, and training, according to NYK.
Based on this framework, NYK aims to further deepen its cooperation with domestic and overseas partners for the development of autonomous ship technology that contributes to advanced safe operation.
It is said that about 80 per cent of marine accidents are caused by human error, particularly insufficient watch-keeping and errors in ship maneuvering. In the past, the company has worked to reduce these types of incidents through its safety management system (SMS) and bridge resource management (BRM). However, progress with computer technology has made it possible to further improve safety by combining the strengths of human experience with the attributes of computers.
In this regard, NYK has developed a new operational system that achieves a high level of safe operation and assists vessel operators by making use of maritime autonomous surface ships (MASS) technology, an R&D project conducted with domestic and overseas partners.
In late September 2019, NYK conducted the world’s first MASS trial, making a big step toward realizing its target of manned autonomous ships for safer operations and reducing crew workload. The trial saw Leader, an NYK-operated pure car truck carrier (PCTC), being navigated day and night using the Sherpa System for Real ship (SSR) navigation system.
APExS is an acronym for “Action Planning and Execution System”. This framework for the realization of MASS includes high-speed computer-based information processing technology and risk analyses that support crew members’ situational awareness and the decision-making necessary for maneuvering. In fact, the computer will execute maneuvering operations under the crew’s approval, the company explained.