The Korea Herald


South Korea embarks on ambitious autonomous ship project

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : Oct. 30, 2019 - 14:59

    • Link copied

South Korea has embarked on an autonomous ship project by investing 160 billion won ($130 million), seeking to boost the domestic eco-friendly and smart shipping industry and achieve a 50 percent global market share by 2030.

The Industry Ministry and the Oceans Ministry announced Wednesday that the project they are jointly pursing has passed the preliminary feasibility studies.

The project aims to develop key technologies related to autonomous navigation and system autonomy while laying the foundation for early commercialization.

The allocated funds will be invested over six years from 2020 to 2025. Of this, the government has set aside 119 billion won and the rest will be spent by private shipbuilders, including Hyundai Heavy Industries, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering and Samsung Heavy industries.

The four main goals of the project are to develop an intelligent navigation system, engine automation system, construction of autonomous ship performance center and development of operation technology and standardization.

It aims to develop an intelligent system capable of autonomous navigation, integrated platform to control engine room, collision and accident prevention, situational awareness and decision making.

The autonomous vessel will incorporate technologies such as internet of things, big data and artificial intelligence, according to the ministries.

By combining future technologies, the project intends to develop a level 3 (L3) autonomous operating vessel by 2025. According to the International Maritime Organization, L3 ships are remotely controlled without a crew, while level 4 is a fully autonomous ship.

“With autonomous cruise ships, companies are expected to improve the economies of scale and safety by exploring the optimal routes and preventing accidents due to human negligence,” said Yoon Sung-hyuk, chief of the Industry Ministry’s shipbuilding & offshore plant division.

The shipping companies can reduce operating costs by up to 22 percent by saving on fuel costs and reducing maintenance time. Also, about 80 percent of marine accidents are due to human negligence, according to the ministry.

According to India-based research firm Acute Market Reports, the global ship and related equipment market is expected to reach $155 billion by 2025 when autonomous ships become commercially available.

“If the nation secures competitiveness by developing related technologies preemptively through this project, Korean firms are expected to have a 50 percent market share in the global autonomous cruise ship industry by 2030,” Yoon said.

The two ministries are planning to carry out demonstrations using various types of ships for the successful development and operation of autonomous vessels. They plan to pursue international cooperation, including technology development, certification, testing and international standard with Norway, which has a competitive edge in related fields.

By Shin Ji-hye (