The world’s first transoceanic voyage with autonomous navigation is a success

The ship called Prism Courage traveled over 10,000 nautical miles.
Ameya Paleja

Avikus, a subsidiary of Hyundai, has successfully completed the first transoceanic voyage of a large merchant ship using autonomous navigation technologies, the company said in a press release

With the increase in computational capabilities, autonomous navigation solutions are being tested in various fields of transportation. Autonomous cars are expected to bring in a new era of human transportation, and the maritime industry is also not very far behind. 

Last year, we reported on a fertilizer company that deployed a fully electric and autonomous container ship in Norway to save 40,000 truck trips every year. While this deployment was over a short distance, maritime transportation involves crossing oceans and often in very congested port areas. 

Hyundai's solution to automating maritime navigation

Hyundai set up Avikus in December 2020 to address the challenge of autonomous navigation in maritime environments. Last year, it successfully demonstrated its technology on a 12-seater cruise ship in Korea and showcased it to the world at the CES 2022, the world's biggest electronics and IT show. 

The latest version of its navigational software is called HiNAS 2.0 and is a Level 2 autonomous navigation technology that can control and operate the ship. For its Level 1 functions, such as recognizing and judging objects in its environment, the software uses artificial intelligence trained to recognize nearby ships, weather, and wave heights. 

Earlier this month, the company announced that it successfully trialed the software on a 180,000 square-meter-class ultra-large LNG carrier called PRISM Courage. The large merchant ship began its journey on May 1 from Freeport off the Gulf Of Mexico. After passing through the Panama Canal, the ship arrived at the Boryeong LNG Terminal in South Korea after completing a journey of about 10,800 nautical miles (20,000 km) in 33 days. 

How did the software help the voyage? 

About half of the distance was covered by using the autonomous navigational software. HiNAS 2.0 worked with Hyundai's Integrated Smartship Solution (ISS) to create optimal routes and determine optimal speeds for the journey. The software also came across many ships during its voyage and took evasive action, and avoided collision about 100 times.

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Using the optimal routes recommended by the software, the voyage was completed with an improved fuel efficiency of seven percent while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by about five percent. 

"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 Young-hoon Koh, Captain of Prism Courage.

The voyage was also remotely monitored in real-time by American Bureau of Shipping and the Korea Register of Shipping. Avikus plans to commercialize HiNAS 2.0 after receiving certifications from the ABS. 

Last month, we reported how a cargo ship was autonomously controlled for a distance of about 500 miles (790 km). Avikus' technology went much beyond this feat, and it was the first time the technology had been used on a merchant ship. 

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