- Nippon Yusen Kawasaki Kaisha (NYK Line) may attempt to test a remotely controlled container ship's progress from Japan to North America in 2019, Bloomberg Technology reported last week.
- NYK Line is one of many companies worldwide seeking to develop self-sailing vessels to reduce operating costs and boost safety within the global shipping industry. Recent collisions highlight the high safety concerns while navigating the world.
- Bloomberg notes Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL) and K Line — which are currently undergoing a triple merger with NYK Line — are also working on developing autonomous ships. However, NYK Line was the first of its peers to announce a specific date for testing the technology.
Automated maritime vessel transportation is being advanced, with safety and savings at the forefront of development objectives.
Currently, the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) is debating whether to amend regulations regarding automated vessels. Meanwhile, autonomous ships are gaining traction in Europe, as a battery-powered, self-guided Norwegian ship plans to make its first 37-mile voyage in 2018, and Amsterdam may soon have autonomous Roboats to travel its canals serving as taxis or last-mile delivery tools.
The three events shows autonomous navigation technology is advancing at a steady pace, although NYK Line's pilot would be among the first tests across a global shipping lane. Such distances present unique challenges, as safety concerns involving changing weather conditions, pirates, and lately, ingenious hackers prevail. In addition, given a relatively small crew size, questions remain as to whether the technology will save enough costs justify its deployment. Carriers, at least, appear to be betting it will.