During Saturday 14 to Tuesday 17 September, the large NYK-operated PCTC Iris Leader, with a gross tonnage of 70,826 tons, navigated autonomously using the Sherpa System for Real ship (SSR) navigation system from Xinsha, China, to the port of Nagoya in Japan. Moreover, from Saturday 19 to Sunday 20 September, the same vessel travelled from the port of Nagoya to the port of Yokohama in Japan.

The crew carried out their normal duties during the trial, according to a statement of the company. Also, the navigation included both day and night operations, traveling through Japan’s coastal area but excluding the bays.

Throughout the trial, the SSR’s performance was monitored in actual sea conditions, gathering information on environmental conditions around the vessel from existing navigational devices that calculated collision risk; automatically determined optimal, safe and cost-efficient routes; and then automatically piloted the ship.

By using the data and experience gained through the trial, NYK will be able to ensure the viability of the SSR and the potential advantage it can have on safe and optimal operations, in ways that could not be made possible through the use of onshore simulators.


NYK aspires to employ manned autonomous ship technology to improve its existing secure operations and reduce crew workload, as well as develop a technology for better communication and support.

In fact, the company adds that will continue to develop SSR and carry out demonstration tests of advanced operational support technologies to realize this goal by accelerating its digitalization efforts and making adjustments to the difference between the optimal course derived by the program and that determined by professional human judgment.

Lastly, a software docking assist system and a remote vessel control system was also tested by the research team, MTI Co. Ltd., becoming the first Asian member of the One Sea autonomous shipping alliance.