Nippon Foundation brings Japan Inc together to lead autonomous shipping debate

Japan Inc is coming together to try and provide leadership in the domain of autonomous shipping.

The Nippon Foundation, a private, non-profit grant-making organisation, is bringing 40 local companies together – including owners, yards, equipment manufacturers – to trial autonomous ship voyages this year and next on five different ship types with a view to commercialising the technology by 2025. The ship types are a mix of passenger and commercial, including container ships with Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) and Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) heavily involved and providing tonnage for the project.

Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa told a press conference in Tokyo on Friday, “I would like Japanese shipping and shipbuilding companies to collaborate with IT companies, etc., and to create innovations from Japan by being the pioneer of unmanned vessels. That will enable Japan to exert influence in future global rule-making.”

Japanese companies have been pioneering many autonomous shipping projects but this marks the first national endeavour to develop systems. It comes as neighbours in South Korea and China are actively trialling unmanned shipping operations in testbeds as are a number of other nations, principally in Scandinavia.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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