Automated situational awareness platform developer Orca AI has partnered with Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK) Group, a leading Japanese shipping and logistics company, to enhance its fleet’s safety.

Following more than two years of collaboration, NYK Group confirmed it will install the Orca AI platform across the NYK fleet, which includes bulk carriers, tankers, and containerships.

NYK’s aim was to find a safety system that could enable crews to make better real-time decisions while navigating congested oceans, according to Captain Jun Nakamura, manager of the autonomous ship team at NYK Group.

The Japanese company also wanted to improve its understanding of the navigational challenges facing its fleet.

“Orca AI demonstrated that the safety of shipping operations can be improved by automating the task of target detection in low visibility in congested waters,” Captain Nakamura said.

“The platform serves as an automated lookout and recognises dangerous targets and other vessels that may be overlooked by the human eye, reducing the probability of incidents at sea.”

The partnership began in August 2020 when NYK installed a trial version of Orca AI’s platform on a ship operated by the NYK Group.

Since then, the NYK Group and Orca have also completed a successful autonomous voyage trial in congested waters near Japan’s east coast through the Designing the Future of Full Autonomous Ships (DFFAS) consortium, which includes 30 Japanese firms.

“We are excited to partner with tech leaders such as NYK, deepening our collaboration with the company and supporting its ongoing aim to be a central player in the shipping industry’s digital revolution,” said Yarden Gross, CEO and co-founder of Orca AI.

The NYK trial – known as the MEGURI2040 Project and supported by the Nippon Foundation – was carried out on Suzaku, a 749 gross tonne autonomous containership fitted with Orca’s artificial intelligence and deep-learning technology.

Travelling from Tokyo Bay to the port of Tsumatsusaka in the Ise Bay, the vessel achieved 40 hours of navigation with complete autonomy for about 98% of the voyage.

The vessel automatically carried out 107 collision avoidance manoeuvres and avoided up to 500 ships using Orca’s safety navigation system. The platform provided real-time detection, tracking, and range estimation through 18 cameras with panoramic views.