MOL Partners with Rolls-Royce to Develop Smart Ships


Japanese carrier line Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL) has signed a deal with UK-based engineering conglomerate Rolls-Royce Marine to research of an advisory type of Intelligent Awareness System (IAS).

The joint project will use Rolls-Royce's IAS for new sensors that connect to nautical instruments such as ship radar.

MOL plans to develop automation for safer and more efficient vessels by developing technology that allows ships to detect obstacles and avoid collisions.

Its plans also include integrating data such as weather and route information.

Rolls-Royce has stated that IAS will make vessels “safer, easier and more efficient to operate” by providing crew with an enhanced understanding of their vessel’s surroundings.

This will be achieved by fusing data from a range of sensors with information from existing ship systems; such as Automatic Identification System (AIS) and radar.

Data from other sources, including global databases, will also have a role.

Rolls-Royce's IAS will be tested on a ferry in service in the Seto Naikai Inland Sea, operated by MOL-Group Ferry Sunflower Limited (pictured below).

Learn how the the smart ship will revolutionise the landscape of ship design and operations by reading a Rolls-Royce technical paper

The Inland Sea is one of the world's most congested sea areas.

MOL and Rolls-Royce will jointly collect and analyze data on marine currents, vessel traffic congestion, and other conditions in the area to promote practical application and research of the system.

Kenta Arai, Director at Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, said: “Ferry SUNFLOWER operates in some of the most congested waters in the world and will provide an opportunity to test rigorously Rolls-Royce’s intelligent awareness system. We also expect it to provide our crews with a more informed view of a vessel’s surroundings in an accessible and user friendly way.

“This can give our crews an enhanced decision support tool, increasing their safety and that of our vessels.

“This is a significant challenge to front-line technology leading to our ultimate goal of autonomous sailing.”

Asbjørn Skaro, Rolls-Royce, Director Digital & Systems – Marine, said: “We are exploring and testing how to combine sensor technologies effectively and affordably.

“Pilot projects such as this allow us to see how they can be best adapted to the needs of the customer and their crews so that our product effectively meets the needs of both.

“Successful pilots and product development programmes are also an important step towards the further development of remote and autonomous vessels and meeting our goal of having a remote controlled ship in commercial use by the end of the decade.”

In an announcement, MOL said: “The AI system can detect obstacles with greater accuracy and draw upon advanced ergonomics to provide a more effective user interface for crewmembers.

“The companies believe this system will help to create the fundamental technology for autonomous navigation, an area where MOL is focusing on as it strives for continual advances in operating safety and efficiency.”

Read more: Rolls-Royce recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the European Space Agency to explore space technologies to remote-control autonomous ships

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