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Rolls-Royce and Mitsui O.S.K. lines to work together to develop intelligent awareness for ships


London, U.K. — Rolls-Royce has signed a deal with Japanese multi-modal transport company Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL), to collaborate in the development of its intelligent awareness system.

The collaboration will be on board 165 metre passenger ferry SUNFLOWER, which is owned and operated by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines’ subsidiary company. Ferry SUNFLOWER operates on a 222-nautical mile route between Kobe and Oita via the Akashi Kaikyo, Bisan Seto and Kurushima Straits.

Rolls-Royce Intelligent awareness systems will make vessels safer, easier and more efficient to operate by providing crew with an enhanced understanding of their vessel’s surroundings. This will be achieved by fusing data from a range of sensors with information from existing ship systems; such as Automatic Identification System (AIS) and radar. Data from other sources, including global databases, will also have a role.

Kenta Arai, Director at Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, said: “Ferry SUNFLOWER operates in some of the most congested waters in the world and will provide an opportunity to test rigorously Rolls-Royce’s intelligent awareness system. We also expect it to provide our crews with a more informed view of a vessel’s surroundings in an accessible and user friendly way. This can give our crews an enhanced decision support tool, increasing their safety and that of our vessels. This is a significant challenge to front-line technology leading to our ultimate goal of autonomous sailing.”

Asbjørn Skaro, Rolls-Royce, Director Digital & Systems – Marine, said: “We are exploring and testing how to combine sensor technologies effectively and affordably. Pilot projects such as this allow us to see how they can be best adapted to the needs of the customer and their crews so that our product effectively meets the needs of both.

“Successful pilots and product development programmes are also an important step towards the further development of remote and autonomous vessels and meeting our goal of having a remote controlled ship in commercial use by the end of the decade.”

Rolls-Royce expects to be able to undertake an Approval of Concept and have its intelligent awareness product commercially available in 2018.

The system builds on experiences from R&D work worldwide. The intelligent awareness system will benefit from Rolls-Royce’s extensive experience in the Tekes funded project Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications Initiative (AAWA), which has been running since June 2015. The company has been conducting a series of tests of the sensor arrays in a range of operating and climatic conditions on board Finferries’ 65 metre double ended ferry Stella, which operates between Korpo and Houtskär in the Archipelago Sea on the southwest coast of Finland.