LNG carrier completes first autonomous ocean crossing by large ship

The LNG carrier used autonomous navigation systems for half of its trip between the United States and South Korea (Hyundai)

Posted on June 2, 2022 at 2:05 p.m. by

The Maritime Executive

An LNG carrier has made what is called the world’s first transoceanic voyage by a large merchant vessel using autonomous navigation technologies. The voyage was made as the first demonstration of the advanced technology sailing the 97,500 dwt vessel for approximately half of its voyage across the Pacific, or approximately 5,400 nautical miles avoiding over 100 vessels and optimizing the voyage.

The Courage Prism, a 180,000 m3 LNG carrier built by Hyundai Heavy Industries and delivered to SK Shipping of South Korea in 2021, completed the voyage arriving today June 2 at the Boryeong LNG terminal in South Korea. The voyage took 33 days departing from the LNG terminal in Freeport, Texas on May 2 and sailing through the Panama Canal and across the Pacific. The total voyage was nearly 11,000 nautical miles.

The ship is equipped with the second level of the autonomous navigation system developed by Avikus, a subsidiary of HD Hyundai launched in December 2020 specializing in autonomous navigation. According to the company, the HiNAS 2.0 navigation system creates optimal routes and speeds based on Hyundai Global Service’s integrated Smartship solution. Its artificial intelligence recognizes the surrounding environment, such as weather and wave height, and nearby vessels, then controls the vessel’s steering commands in real time. Tier 2 technology can control and operate the vessel compared to the prior Tier 1 which provides the optimal routing.

During the trip, the Courage Prism was operated autonomously by creating the optimal route and also recognizing other nearby vessels, and plotting courses to avoid a collision. They report that the result was a seven percent increase in energy efficiency, which reduced greenhouse gas emissions by five percent.

In addition to fuel savings, the company promotes other benefits of autonomous navigation. They point out that the technology is helping to address the shortage of crew members for ships as well as improving the safety of operations by reducing human error in navigation.

Team observing autonomous navigation operations during the crossing (Avikus)

They highlight research from Acute Market Reports indicating that the Autonomous Navigation Vessels and Related Equipment Market is expected to grow at an CAGR of 12.6%, reaching $235.7 billion in 2028. South Korean test of the technologies follows a series of protests led earlier this year by Japan the use of ferries and container ships for coastal voyages as well as the demonstration of autonomous moorings and departures from the port. Previous used tug tests in bustling port environments. China said it had put the first autonomous short-range ship in service while in Norway they are start of two years of testing on the Yara Birkland to gradually move to full automation and obtain autonomous navigation certificates. Other projects of autonomous navigation vessels are also underway in Norway providing for the transport of goods over short distances to replace road transport.

The voyage was conducted under real-time monitoring with the American Bureau of Shipping and the Korea Register of Shipping to verify the performance and stability of the technology. Avikus reports that it plans to bring HiNAS 2.0 to market sometime this year after receiving certification from ABS for the results of this self-propelled ocean crossing.

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