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Massive LNG tanker sails itself across the Pacific in shipping world first

Massive LNG tanker sails itself across the Pacific in shipping world first
The LNG carrier Prism Courage
The LNG carrier Prism Courage
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The LNG carrier Prism Courage
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The LNG carrier Prism Courage
The captain and crew of Prism Courage monitor the autonomous navigation system
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The captain and crew of Prism Courage monitor the autonomous navigation system

HD Hyundai has announced that the Prism Courage, a 122,000 tonne ultra-large natural gas tanker operated by its subsidiary Avikus, has become the first large ship to make an ocean passage of over 10,000 km (6,210 miles) under autonomous control.

A ship that is capable of sailing itself isn't new. Even the smallest vessel can be equipped with an automatic pilot and it isn't uncommon to come across stories of freighters steaming into harbor without a soul aboard after being prematurely abandoned by their crews. In fact, even a sailing craft without a single bit of electronics aboard can keep a steady course if the sails are set properly and the tiller secured.

However, that is a very different thing from an autonomous ship making a passage. An automatic pilot simply allows a craft to maintain a heading and maybe it can be programmed to respond to things like GPS waypoints and currents, but an autonomous ship must be able to handle many different kinds of sensor readings and to not only make decisions about how to respond to them, but to do so in accordance with the rules of the road and maritime law.

The captain and crew of Prism Courage monitor the autonomous navigation system
The captain and crew of Prism Courage monitor the autonomous navigation system

Which brings us to the Panama-flagged Prism Courage. The ship left Freeport, Texas on May 1, 2022, then passed through the Panama Canal and crossed the Pacific Ocean to arrive at the Boryeong LNG Terminal in South Chungcheong Province, Korea, after a voyage of 33 days.

During the latter half of the journey, the ship was under the control of the autonomous navigation system HiNAS 2.0, which not only steered it, but sought out the optimal routes and best speeds based on Hyundai Global Service’s Integrated Smartship Solution (ISS) artificial intelligence. This provided navigation as well as compensation for weather and wave heights and legally avoiding passing ships by steering in real-time.

The HiNAS 2.0 system provided an increase in fuel efficiency of 7 percent and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of 5 percent. In addition, it was able to locate and avoid other ships over 100 times. During the voyage, the Prism Courage was monitored by the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) and the Korea Register of Shipping (KR) to confirm its performance and stability.

The goal is to prepare the HiNAS 2.0 for marketing by next year, after official certification.

"Avikus’ autonomous navigation technology was greatly helpful in this ocean-crossing test especially for maintaining navigating routes, autonomously changing directions, and avoiding nearby ships, which were all increasing ship crews’ work conveniences," said Captain Young-hoon Koh of the Prism Courage.

Source: HD Hyundai

11 comments
11 comments
TpPa
Sounds like a wonderful targe for those lousy pirates
windykites
Avoiding nearby ships? Really? I would think it would be the other way around, considering its size. What is the point of this if there is still a crew on board? Will it eventually be unmanned?
guzmanchinky
So was it autonomous all the way into the dock or will there still be a crew required?
Aross
All of this automation sounds really good. Imagine all the leisure time humanity will have. the great promise of the 50's and 60's. One minor problem though. Where is all the money to come from for this leisure time.
jb
I was thinking the opposite about pirates. Their method is taking the crew hostage. If there's no crew, and onboard manual controls are locked out, the pirates would be physically unable to divert the ship. The most they could do would be threaten to sink it, but now that's back to conventional warfare, where they are probably also at a disadvantage.
TechGazer
It needs very good security, or else some terrorists will hack it and ram it into some big city's harbour. I think it's likely that there will always be a need for at least some crew to watch for unexpected situations. Is the normal ship's crew's expenses a significant part of the operating costs?

The question is whether the AI makes fewer costly errors than the average human crew. The AI doesn't get drunk on duty.
itsmeagain
6,210 miles in 33 days? Averaging <8 miles/hour (~7 knots)? "During the latter half of the journey, the ship was under the control of the autonomous navigation system..." So, not autonomous navigation through the Panama Canal locks (or from Texas to the Pacific). I don't think the crew has to worry about their jobs just yet.
ReservoirPup
I think it has a potential to be much safer than a crewed version especially when human errors and pirates are a concern. Lots of sensors and good algorithms will do their job.
Gregg Eshelman
"How to Avoid Large Ships: 3rd Edition" Chapter 1, Have the ship fitted with HiNAS. The end.
Rusty Harris
I know it's getting better, but considering how some of the "self driving" automobiles are doing, I hope they keep a "standby crew" around.
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