• Press Release

NYK Conducts Second Test of Remote Navigation of Tugboat

- Progress further toward practical remote navigation of ships by 2025 -

NYK and its group companies MTI Co., Ltd., Keihin Dock Co., Ltd., and Japan Marine Science Inc. (JMS) obtained very useful results in a second test of a remote navigation of a tugboat as a part of the Japanese government’s Sea Trial Project on Remote Control Navigation* for the realization of autonomous ships by 2025.

Outline of Second Test

Within Tokyo Bay, a manned tugboat** equipped with a remotely controlled system*** was operated remotely from an operation center in the city of Nishinomiya in Hyogo prefecture approximately 400 kilometers away. In the first test, we had confirmed the use of sensors and cameras equipped to the tugboat to recognize surrounding conditions and had used the data to create a route plan and action plan (collision avoidance route plan). In this second test, we conducted the below two tests to be able to respond if something were to go wrong with the equipment.

Remote navigation test at remote operation center

  1. Fallback operation verification test

As shown in Figure 1, we conducted a test to confirm the performance of a signal sent remotely to the ship to (1) stop as quickly as possible, and (2) sail at a reduced speed to the next waypoint, to ensure ship safety during abnormalities or maintain the ship in a limited but usable state, assuming abnormal communication between the ship and remote operation center during navigation or equipment abnormality.

(b) Optimization test for communication data amount

The purpose of this test was to confirm the communication speed that can be used for remote control adjustments depending on the communication environment. To ensure stable remote maneuvering, we conducted a test to see if it is possible to automatically adjust the amount of radar echo data according to changes in communication speed so that the radar echo data does not affect other signals. For remote control, it is necessary for the remote operation center to monitor the position of the ship and nearby obstacles in real time, and since communication interruption is not acceptable, confirmation of this function is indispensable.

Future Development

In the future, NYK and its group companies will continue to improve the system using the knowledge gained from the two remote navigation tests and will continue to collaborate with partners to realize remote control of large vessels. In addition, we will disseminate and develop this technology for autonomous ships with crew and crewless autonomous ships that we are working on.

* A trial project that Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has been promoting since FY2018 to improve the environment, including the establishment of safety requirements necessary for the realization of autonomous ships. Companies selected to participate in the sea trial project on remote control navigation include MTI Co., Ltd.; ClassNK (Nippon Kaiji Kyokai); National Institute of Maritime, Port and Aviation Technology; Ikous Corporation; NYK; Keihin Dock Co., Ltd.; Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co., Ltd.; IHI Power Systems Co., Ltd.; BEMAC Corporation; SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation; Tokyo Keiki Inc.; Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation; NTT DoCoMo Inc., Japan Radio Co., Ltd.; Furuno Electric Co., Ltd.; and Japan Marine Science Inc.

** A tugboat operated by the Shin-Nippon Kaiyosha Corporation, an NYK Group company, was used for this test.

*** To date, the NYK Group has been working with nautical instrument manufacturers and partners to develop a remotely controlled system that can support the vessel crew. Such a system would collect, integrate, and analyze information around the ship, prepare an action plan, and after the approval of operators at remote locations or on board, take action in accordance with the plan.

In accordance with the NYK Group’s medium-term management plan “Staying Ahead 2022 with Digitalization and Green,” the company has indicated its goal to integrate ESG principles into management strategies, and is promoting activities that contribute to the achievement of the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) through the company’s business activities. Digital-technology use and technology-development efforts to realize the remote navigation of ships will contribute to the below goals.

The NYK Group’s ship automation initiatives utilizing advanced technology

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