MOL works with Japanese institutes to prevent collisions

MOL president Junichiro Ikeda. Credit: MOL

Japanese shipping group Mitsui OSK Lines said on 20 December 2019 that the company – along with MOL Marine; the National Maritime Research Institute of the National Institute of Maritime, Port and Aviation Technology; and Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology – has signed a contract to conduct a joint study to prevent ship collisions.

The research will also include autonomous vessels that require minimal manning at the bridge.

The project members will study collision avoidance algorithms and autonomous navigation/remote ship operation systems. The system will be assessed by active watch officers using a ship handling simulator and actual vessels, in preparation for installing on in-service vessels.

In the project, artificial intelligence (AI), such as rule-based AI and deep reinforcement learning technique, and Obstacle Zone by Target (OZT) algorithms are used to make a decision to avoid collision dangers and to take actions to avoid the target ships.

OZT is an area where a vessel may possibly collide with the other vessel sailing around it when it is aimed at the area. MOL’s algorithm conducts an evasive manoeuvre by navigating a course that avoids OZT.

MOL said, “On watchkeeping during ship operations, mariners must first be able to see an object, and then judge whether that object poses a risk to the vessel. If that is the case, the vessel must take some action to avoid the risk, such as veering, slow steaming, and so on. The [OZT] algorithm supports mariners’ ability to spot objects and determine whether they are potential risks.”

Conventional collision avoidance is a highly skilled process based on maritime officers’ experience and knowledge. However, by utilising the navigation support system incorporating OZT, the vessel collision avoidance algorithm, a vessel can find an area where it can navigate safely. In addition, the system’s bridge view display allows mariners to determine the positions of nearby vessels and decide which ones present risks.”

MOL has moved ahead with advanced support of safe operation and reduction of its environmental impact, as set out in its ‘ISHIN NEXT’ smart ship project, which began in November 2016.