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Korean government launches $132m autonomous ship project

The South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries has announced the launch of a joint working group to develop self-driving ships by 2025. The project has been given a budget of KRW 160 billion (132m USD).

The working group will focus its efforts on developing ships that will be powered by smart and autonomous systems with artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), big data and sensors. According to the Korean government, a 22 per cent cut in ship operating costs could be achieved by reducing fuel consumption by optimising maintenance and voyage routing using smart and autonomous systems.

The project will last for six years and develop vessels to Level three of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Maritime Safety Committee. Level three is defined as vessels controlled remotely with a minimum number of crews, with the ability to predict and diagnose obstacles. Coastal ships will be developed to level two, which includes autonomous features such as remote control but with crew on board. There are in total four levels of autonomy according to the IMO.

Kang Gyeong-seong, director-general for industrial policy at the Trade Ministry said, “The goal is to take 50 per cent of the related market's share by 2030, when self-driving ships are commercialised. After the project is completed in 2025, we will spare no effort to develop the technology needed for a completely autonomous ship with level four features.”

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