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World’s first successful sea trial of unmanned ship operation

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World's first successful sea trial of unmanned ship operation. Image: MOL
World's first successful sea trial of unmanned ship operation. Image: MOL
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Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. announced that together with its two group companies and the following consortium partners have successfully concluded the world’s first sea trial of unmanned ship operation from port to port, as part of the unmanned ship project MEGURI2040 led by The Nippon Foundation.

The following two points are major features of the consortium’s role in the MEGURI2040 unmanned ship operation projects:

(1) The consortium conducted the sea trial with two different type of ships: a coastal containership and a coastal car ferry, aimed at using the results to develop versatile technologies by identifying similarities and differences between the two ship types.

(2) It conducted mooring tests using a drone in a move toward automated mooring operation.

Since MEGURI2040’s inception in 2020, the consortium has conducted various elemental experiments to realize autonomous ship operation. In October 2021, MOL Marine & Engineering Co., Ltd. conducted a safety verification test using its owned 3D simulator before this sea trial.

Consortium members and its main roles

Company name Main roles
MOL Overall coordination, risk evaluation
Mitsui E&S Shipbuilding Co., Ltd.
(MES-S; President: Isamu Funazu, Headquarters: Chuo-ku, Tokyo)
Development of “Judgement” and “Ship Operation” functions
(Automated collision avoidance routing, automated ship operation in port, automated berthing/unberthing operation)
Furuno Electric Co., Ltd.
(President: Yukio Furuno; Headquarters: Nishinomiya-shi, Hyogo Prefecture)
Development of “Cognitive” function
(Integration of information from sensors during navigation and at berthing)
Imoto Lines, Ltd.
(President: Takayuki Imoto; Headquarters: Kobe-shi, Hyogo Prefecture)
Provide test ship and seafarers, develop ship operation plan.
A.L.I. Technologies, Inc.
(A.L.I.; President: Daisuke Katano; Headquarters: Minato-ku, Tokyo)
Development of mooring support technology
(Throwing a heaving line from the ship to the pier using a unmanned drone)
MOL Ferry Co., Ltd.
(President: Naotoshi Omoto; Headquarters: Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo)
Provide test ship and seafarers, develop ship operation plan.
MOL Marine & Engineering Co., Ltd.
(President: Takashi Nakajima; Headquarters: Minato-ku, Tokyo)
Create simulation program of collision avoidance navigation/ berthing/unberthing for testing automated function of those scene.

 

For autonomous navigation, the ships followed a previously formulated route using the MES-S-developed autonomous ship operation control system, in consideration of the following elements.

  • Accurately grasp ship location information
  • Various external elements such as wind and tides/currents
  • Ship handling performance specific to each ship (maneuverability, conditions of acceleration and deceleration)/configuration of ship handing equipment
  • Navigation rules applied to ships

Information on other ships and obstacles/debris on the set route was gathered by the Furuno Electric-developed autonomous surrounding information integration system (measures and displays positions, speed, types of nearby ships, and position of obstacles/debris by integrating information gained by cognition through radar, AIS, and camera images). Based on the integrated information, the ship navigated the safe route formulated by the autonomous collision avoidance routing system.

Autonomous berthing and unberthing require especially delicate handling, so the ship berthed and unberthed using information from the Furuno Electric-developed berthing/unberthing support sensor (equipment that calculates and visually displays accurate relative distances and relative angles between the pier and hull from information gathered by LiDAR/camera/satellite compass).

“Automated mooring” is an element of the consortium’s project. Normally, a crewmember on the ship passes the heaving line (to moor the ship in port) by throwing it to a worker on the pier. In this sea trial, the A.L.I.-developed automatic flight drone carried the line to the pier. As technology advances in the future, this is expected to become an alternative approach to mooring operations, which is a heavy burden on seafarers.

In order to develop highly versatile technologies, the consortium plans a sea trial of autonomous navigation using the coastal car ferry “Sunflower Shiretoko,” which has different characteristics from the coastal containership.

Plan for future sea trial

Ship Ship type Sea trial route Schedule
Sunflower Shiretoko
(owned by MOL Ferry)
Coastal car ferry From Tomakomai To Oarai February 2022

The consortium continually aims to reduce the workload on seafarers and ensure safe, secure marine traffic, through MEGURI2040 initiatives to realize autonomous sailing.

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Container Terminal

APM Terminals Mobile to expand by 32 acres

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APM Terminals Mobile to expand by 32 acres. Image: APM Terminals
APM Terminals Mobile to expand by 32 acres. Image: APM Terminals
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APM Terminals Mobile has signed an agreement with the Alabama State Port Authority to add 32 acres to the current 134 acre container terminal yard to keep pace with future demand, creating one million TEU throughput capacity that is approved to handle 14,000 TEU ships. This represents the third expansion in the last six years as importers expand their volumes to meet regional consumer demand and tap into rail service to the Midwest U.S. market.

The $104 million terminal expansion will begin later this year. The first 19 acres are expected to be completed in 2023 and the remaining 13 acres by early 2025. As part of the expansion, APM Terminals will purchase two, new super post-panamax ship-to-shore gantry cranes and related support equipment for crane operations which will complement the current four gantry cranes. In 2020, the berth was expanded to allow two x 8000 TEU vessels alongside. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently dredging the Mobile Harbor channel to reach 50 feet by late 2024.

APM Terminals Mobile now ranks as second largest U.S. Gulf port of container imports. April 2022 container volumes through the port showed a 39.7% increase over April 2021 volumes. The port’s intermodal container transfer facility posted 112.6% growth during the same period. Refrigerated cargo also maintained its double-digit growth, posting a 57.9% gain over the same period.

APM Terminals Mobile’s operational performance and inland access is driving the growth in services:

  • Port: Port productivity of 35 crane moves per hour berth productivity.
  • Ocean: Five weekly services from Asia, one North Europe service, one Intra-Americas service.
  • Rail: Daily rail departures to U.S. Midwest markets via Five Class I railroads serving the port (2.5 day direct doublestack service to Chicago). Two new cranes were added to the near dock, Intermodal Container Transfer Facility (ICTF) in August 2021. In 2024, more rail infrastructure will be added in Montgomery, Alabama when the Alabama Port Authority and CSX build an intermodal container transfer facility to serve expanding port volumes.
  • Truck: High productivity truck gates. 52 minute turntimes, including 83% dual transactions (where truckers optimize their route, bringing in export containers or empty containers and picking up a full import container).
  • Logistics: Five major logistics parks nearby.
  • Air freight: Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley is adjacent to port for ecommerce/parcel/aerospace.
  • Cold chain: CN refrigerated packs available for northbound rail cargoes. New cold storage facility opened October 2021.

“Supply chain leaders are looking to expand their routing options in 2022 to add more flexibility and fulfillment speed to serve consumer demand. We’re working with customers to deliver high port productivity, more port space and more inland logistics connectivity to address the market demand,” said Brian Harold, Managing Director of APM Terminals Mobile.

New Central America service added

Sealand – A Maersk Company has added a new service called the Bonita Express with the inaugural call at APM Terminals Mobile on May 18th. The new, direct all-water service links Mobile in the U.S.
Gulf to the key Central American ports of Puerto Cortes in Honduras and Santo Tomas de Castilla in Guatemala (with connectivity to multiple inland locations including to/from Nicaragua and El Salvador).

Alabama as a site selection

Major companies already in Alabama are Hyundai, AM/NS Calvert, Outokumpu, Northrop Grumman, Mercedes Benz, Honda, Airbus, Amazon, Walmart, BendPak and Bella + Canvas have selected the Port
of Mobile and the state of Alabama as a hub for global logistics supply and distribution as well as manufacturing.

Alabama business incentives and customs tax packages are designed to attract new and expand existing industries. A variety of jobs and investment credits are available for qualifying projects. Other business incentives include tax credits for cargo owners on incremental cargo volumes.

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Break Bulk

“K” LINE Group’s Yokohama Daikoku C-4 Terminal starts operation

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“K” LINE Group’s Yokohama Daikoku C-4 Terminal starts operation. Image: "K" LINE
“K” LINE Group’s Yokohama Daikoku C-4 Terminal starts operation. Image: "K" LINE
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Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Ltd. – “K” LINE and Daito Corporation have started operation of “K” LINE Group’s first dedicated finished vehicle terminal in Japan, at Yokohama Daikoku C-4 Terminal from April 2022. In April, “IVORY ARROW” operated by “K” LINE, a pure car and truck carrier, made its first call at the terminal. A safety prayer ceremony with the terminal operators and an opening ceremony with the attendance of many related parties was held.

The terminal is used not only as an export and transshipment base for finished vehicles but also handle a wide variety of vehicles such as break-bulk cargoes by utilizing work facility with large roof in terminal in order to meet a variety of needs.

In addition, the terminal will use electric power generated from renewable energy sources with virtually zero CO2 emissions. The terminal will procure 100% wind-generated renewable energy from blockchain-based electricity traceability service (a service for specifying the power plants from which electricity is procured) of “Minna-Denryoku”, operated by UPDATER Corporation.

In last November, “K” LINE has revised a part of our long term environmental guideline “K”LINE Environmental Vision 2050” and set our new target for 2050 as “The challenge of Achieving Net-Zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions”. The company strives to enhance their corporate value by contributing to the sustainable development of the economy and society, while protecting the environment through our business activities.

<Terminal Overview>

Name : Yokohama Daikoku C-4 Terminal
Location : Daikoku Futo 22&24, Tsurumi-ku, Yokohama, Japan
Business : Finished-vehicle logistics
Pier length : 350 m (1 berth)
Sea depth : 15 m
Total yard area : Approx. 153,500 m2 (including berth area)
Parking slots : Approx. 8,000 units

 

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Maritime

Valenciaport detects a contraction in Spanish export activity in April

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Valenciaport detects a contraction in Spanish export activity in April. Image: Port Authority of Valencia
Valenciaport detects a contraction in Spanish export activity in April. Image: Port Authority of Valencia
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The geopolitical situation marked by the world crisis in the energy sector, the war in Ukraine, the price of fuel, the increase in the cost of energy and the shortage of raw materials are weighing down the activity of Spanish companies that use the docks of Valenciaport to sell their products abroad, while domestic demand continues to rise. Thus, in the first four months of the year, data from the Statistical Bulletin of the Port Authority of Valencia show that total traffic amounted to more than 27 million tonnes, which represents a decrease of 3.66% compared to the same period in 2021, while TEUs amounted to 1,702,236, with a drop of 7.99%. Regarding containers, full containers dedicated to foreign sales have decreased by 12.72%, while those dedicated to imports have grown by 6.96% during the first four months of the year. A situation that is also seen in the month of April, where full cargo containers fell by 19.87% while those for unloading grew by 35.5%.

This trend is shown in all sectors with generalised decreases in all of them such as vehicles and transport elements (-7.68%), agri-foodstuffs (-15.79%), construction materials (-10.55%), chemical products (-18.14%) and other goods (-21.5%). On the other hand, imports grew, especially natural gas arriving at the Port of Sagunto, which between January and April amounted to 1,305,445 tonnes, three times more than in the first four months of 2021.

If the year-on-year trend is compared, the overall figures for Valenciaport stand at 83.85 million tonnes handled, with a growth of 1.15% and a total of 5,456,592 containers handled, a figure 1.31% lower than the previous period. In annual terms, full containers of cargo dedicated to exports amounted to 1,036,499 with an increase of 2.83% and full containers for unloading (import), which stood at 856,049 containers with an increase of 16.28%. On the other hand, full transit containers fell by 8 per cent and empty containers fell by 1 per cent.

Vehicles and countries

In terms of ro-ro traffic, 4,075,945 tonnes were handled in the first four months of the year, a similar figure to the same period in 2021; while cars under the goods regime stood at 197,187 units, up 4.77%. On the other hand, passenger traffic amounted to 239,492 people (including regular lines and cruise passengers), with a total growth of 168%. During these months, 61 cruise ships have been received with nearly 68,000 passengers.

About total traffic by country, the United States has generated the most traffic with a total of 3,086,521 tonnes and a growth of 22.5%. A third of this traffic is imports, which increased by 200%, although this month the growth of products from the North American country has moderated. This was followed by Italy with 2,537,470 tonnes and an increase of 1.4%, while China, with a decrease of 4.9% and a total of 2,149,086. The number of containers handled with China was 189,710 (-6.95%), followed by the United States with 167,340 (-3.3%) and Turkey with 89,355 (-20.6%).

By geographical areas, the main container market is the Mediterranean-Black Sea with 300,144 and a drop of 10.84%; followed by the Far East with 258,637 (-4.59%); and West Africa with 107,207 TEUs (-7.66%). The most dynamic areas between January and March were Atlantic Europe with a growth of 50.7%, Australia (+18.45%) and South and East Africa (+18.43%).

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