Japanese shipping firm Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) is to install augmented reality (AR) navigation systems on 21 VLCCs following successful trials on two ships.
Developed in cooperation with the equipment manufacturer Furuno Electric as part of MOL's 'Smart Ship' project, the system provides watchkeepers with 'heads-up' displays of information about their ship's route and other vessels in the vicinity.
MOL said it had developed the system to support crew members 'with the goal of achieving an even greater margin of safety' by providing a wide range of data in an easily understood format.
The decision to roll out the system across MOL’s VLCC fleet came after demonstration tests of the technology, which began in March 2018, onboard the 63,115gt car carrier Beluga Ace and the 312,037dwt tanker Suzukasan.
The company said the trials had helped to refine the AR display screen and verify the system's effectiveness.
The AR system gathers data from the AIS and radar and combines this with ECDIS and real-time images from the bridge camera to provide visual information displays on the bridge windows or on tablets.
The displays include details about surrounding sea areas and other ocean conditions, such as shallow waters, as well as information including the speed of other vessels and the closest approach time and distance.
MOL said the AR technology should help to improve crews' situational awareness and it expects the system will play a key role in progressing its plans for autonomous vessel operations.
MOL said it was installing the AR navigation system on the VLCC fleet because the deep-draft vessels 'require special care' when navigating busy and congested waterways such as the Singapore and Malacca Straits.
The company said it plans to 'sequentially install' the system on the rest of its energy transport fleet including LNG carriers, as well as its dry bulkers, at a later date.
As part of its Smart Ship (Ishin Next) project, MOL has also been looking at ways to use radar information and image recognition technologies to produce 'obstacle zone' algorithms that would prevent collisions between vessels.
Launched in 2009, the Ishin project aims to harness new technologies to improve the safety and environmental performance of MOL ships. It has investigated the use of alternative fuels and propulsion systems to cut vessel emissions and is using information technology to optimise voyage planning, reduce seafarer workloads, and provide predictive diagnosis for engines and other onboard machinery.
As part of this programme, MOL last year worked with Roll-Royce to test an 'Intelligence Awareness System' on the 13,659gt ferry Sunflower. The company said the trials had shown the system’s success in detecting debris and other obstacles in one of world’s most congested waterways. It said feedback from the crew had been positive and had led to an idea for an advanced user interface.