Seoul sets aside $132m to commercialise autonomous ship tech

Asian nations are getting their autonomous shipping research and development plans in place. Splash reported yesterday how more than 40 Japanese organisations have been brought together by the Nippon Foundation to develop, test and then commercialise autonomous shipping technology. Similar cohesive efforts are underway in China and Scandinavia.

Determined to be among the leaders is South Korea. Seoul has just launched an integrated government task force to develop and commercialise relevant technologies.

The task force formed by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries will be established at the state-run Korea Research Institute of Ships & Ocean Engineering based in the central city of Daejeon, where the Korean Register used to be headquartered. Some KRW160bn ($132m) will be spent for six years for developing this new technology. The nation’s top shipyards have been conducting their own autonomous R&D for a number of years already.

The increase in Asian focus on autonomous shipping comes at a time where Europe’s most high profile autonomous ship project, the Yara Birkeland, has been put on hold. Norwegian fertiliser firm Yara International, which ordered the pioneering 120 teu, battery powered autonomous vessel, announced it is pausing development of the ship last month, citing the changed global outlook brought about by the Covid-19 epidemic. No new timeline for the landmark ship’s delivery has been given.

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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