• Press Release

Successful Trial of Scraping Robot Conducted on Wood-Chip Carrier

Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha
Nippon Paper Industries Co., Ltd.
Chinougijutsu Co., Ltd.
Iwakuni Sangyo Unyu Co., Ltd.

Aiming to realize safer and more sustainable cargo handling

Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK), Nippon Paper Industries Co., Ltd.(Nippon Paper Industries), Chinougijutsu Co., Ltd.(Chinougijutsu), and Iwakuni Sangyo Unyu Co. Ltd.(Iwakuni Sangyo Unyu) have conducted a successful trial of a remote-controlled robot that scrapes wood chips in the hold of a wood-chip carrier (hereinafter referred to as "scraping robot").

This trial, which was conducted on April 5 at Nippon Paper Industries’ Iwakuni mill in Yamaguchi Prefecture, aims to address safety and the workforce shortage in wood-chip scraping operations.

Through the development of the scraping robot, the four companies will work to realize a safe and sustainable cargo-handling environment. In the future, the four companies aim to realize a cargo-handling environment where not only men but also women, elderly people, and people with disabilities can engage in cargo handling by operating robots from remote locations away from the cargo-handling site.

In this trial, a prototype scraping robot was operated on a wood-chip carrier engaged in a long-term transport contract with Nippon Paper Industries and NYK.
The four companies operated the robot remotely in the ship’s hold for about two hours during cargo unloading and achieved the goals, including confirming the scraping robot’s functionality.

Scope of each company
Company Scope
NYK Operator of wood-chip carriers; planning and supervision of robot development
Nippon Paper Industries Receiver of wood chips; Solving the social issue of improving the working environment and occupational safety in ship holds through the mechanization of scraping operations
Chinougijutsu The basic design of the scraping function and robot development
Iwakuni Sangyo Unyu Performed the shoveling-out work; Evaluation of robot performance through trials

What is a scraping operation?

Wood chips loaded into the hold of a wood-chip carrier are traditionally gathered by excavators and unloaded by cranes. The wood chips that have accumulated in the corners of the holds or adhered to the walls are collected and scraped off by workers using shovels, forks, and other tools because heavy machinery cannot reach those wood chips or may damage the hold walls when scraping.

There is room for improvement in the current work environment because the scraping process requires climbing up and down the 10-meter holds, the tendency for the holds to be cold or hot due to seasonal factors, and the risk of oxygen deprivation due to the wood chips absorbing oxygen. There are also concerns about future staff shortages due to the aging of the workforce.

Workers performing scraping operations

Scraping robot features

A remote control moves the arm of the scraping robot’s hydraulic excavator and the attached scraper (spatula) and brush.

The robot can extend its arm up to three meters high to remove chips from walls, while wood chips that have accumulated in corners can be directly gathered by the lowered arm or pushed out by the brush. The scraping robot can also scrape wood chips trapped in tight spaces, such as structural gaps.

Scraping robot prototype used in the trial

Scraping robot tip

Future Goals

The four companies aim to complete and use the first unit for actual cargo unloading by the end of fiscal 2024. The future goals envisioned by each company through this initiative are as follows.

NYK: We will promote the creation of new businesses throughout the supply chain beyond oceangoing transportation and will work to realize a sustainable society where safety and efficiency are compatible.

Nippon Paper Industries: We will continue our efforts to improve the environment and safety of on-site work, where worker shortages are expected to occur in the future, as we position this as not just an improvement but a solution necessary to realize a sustainable society.

Chinougijutsu: We provide remotely piloted robots tailored to the needs of various industries suffering from a declining labor force and harsh work environments. This project aims to improve the safety and efficiency of cargo handling by mechanizing the work.

Iwakuni Sangyo Unyu: We will continue to work toward a safe and efficient cargo handling style, which we believe will greatly contribute to the improvement of the work environment.

Company overviews

Head office: Tokyo, Japan
Representative: Takaya Soga, President
Website: www.nyk.com/english/
Contact: NYKJP.ML.MEDIA@nykgroup.com

Nippon Paper Industries
Head office: Tokyo, Japan
Representative: Toru Nozawa, President and CEO
Website: www.nipponpapergroup.com/english/
Contact: pr@nipponpapergroup.com

Head office: Osaka, Japan
Representative: Ryouji Otsu, CEO
Website: www.chinou.co.jp/en/home/
Contact: info@chinou.co.jp

Iwakuni Sangyo Unyu
Head office: Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan
Representative: Yoshito Murashige, President and Representative Director
Website: iwakunisangyounyu.jp/

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