An ambitious Japanese project is aiming to make crewless autonomous surface ships a reality
The Designing the Future of Full Autonomous Ship (DFFAS) project is led by Japan Marine Science and includes 30 companies, including some of Japan’s most venerable firms – NYK Group, Sumitomo, Nihon Shipyard and Honda as partners.
DFFAS has now completed construction of a fleet operations centre (FOC) in Makuhari, Chiba city, to provide onshore support for crewless maritime autonomous surface ships.
The FOC is part of a comprehensive system that covers the functions required for operating autonomous ships. Operators will provide shore-based support by collecting information from the ship and monitoring and analysing the ship’s operational status from the FOC. In case of an emergency, the operator will be able to remotely navigate the vessel.
The DFFAS project aims to realise a domestic coastal shipping business supported by crewless ships to help solve the issue of crew shortages by coastal shipping businesses.
The project is sponsored by the Joint Technological Development Programme for the Demonstration of Unmanned Ships under the administration of the Nippon Foundation.
A trial is expected to commence in February 2022, where the DFFAS system will be installed aboard a 749-gt container vessel sailing from Tokyo Bay to Ise Bay, Japan to simulate the actual operation of crewless autonomous surface ships in congested waters.
With the Foundation’s support, the project hopes to advance the practical use of these ships to the point of full-scale commercialisation by 2025 with partners working towards standardising the technology and the establishing systems and infrastructure through open collaboration.
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