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Orca AI to Participate in Second Phase of Autonomous Ship Project

August 31, 2023

Tel Aviv-based maritime technology company Orca AI is continuing its collaboration with NYK Group subsidiary MTI and partners in the second development stage of the MEGURI2040 project administered by the Nippon Foundation.

MTI alongside sister entity Japan Marine Science Inc is spearheading the Designing the Future of Fully Autonomous Ships Plus (DFFAS+) consortium comprising 51 Japan-based companies that will work together on the next phase of MEGURI2040, which kicked off in 2020 and aims for full-scale commercialization of fully autonomous ship technology by 2025.

At the same time the OECD projects that maritime trade volumes could triple by 2050, skilled crews shortage is growing globally. Specifically, a diminishing, aging population in Japan has made it difficult to find skilled personnel for coastal shipping, and the lack of experienced crews creates an acute need to mitigate the risk of human errors in navigation, resulting in maritime accidents. As a way to address these social issues, the Nippon Foundation MEGURI2040 has envisioned a fully autonomous navigation program. 

The first phase of MEGURI2040 culminated in May 2022 with the successful autonomous trial voyage of the 749-gt NYK shortsea containership Suzaku in congested waters off Japan’s east coast. Equipped with Orca AI’s automated watchkeeper, to replace the human lookout, the vessel achieved 40 hours of navigation with complete autonomy, or around 98% of the voyage between Tokyo Bay and the port of Tsumatsusaka in Ise Bay. Data from the integrated display was live-streamed to the fleet operations center in Tokyo, with the ship performing 107 collision avoidance maneuvers and avoiding up to 500 other vessels en route.

Dr Hideyuki Ando, Director of MTI commented: “Following the successful completion of the DFFAS project, we continue to develop autonomous navigational capabilities on the journey towards full autonomy. Orca AI’s advanced AI and computer vision technology have already proven to be key enablers of the safety of autonomous navigation, and we look forward to leveraging this cutting-edge technology in the DFFAS+ project.”

“The DFFAS is an important milestone on the way to make autonomous shipping a reality, and we are excited to be part of Phase Two of the project. MTI and Orca AI’s shared approach of collaborative innovation, out-of-the-box thinking, and a ‘nothing is impossible’ mindset is the basis of this strong partnership. This collaboration will bring us closer to a future of fully autonomous navigation, said Orca AI’s CEO and Co-founder, Yarden Gross.

MEGURI2040 Phase Two will focus on demonstrating ship-shore operations using four different vessel types including a newly built container ship equipped with a fully autonomous operation system, an existing container ship, Ro-Ro vessel, and a remote island route ship equipped for partial autonomous operations, as well as two fleet operation centers.