South Korea to develop self-driving ships by 2025

June 22, 2020

SEOUL- South Korea has launched a national project to develop self-driving ships by 2025, powered by a smart autonomous system incorporating artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), big data and sensors.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries have formed a joint working group to drive the project. Operated by both ministries, the project will have a budget of KRW 160 billion.

The plan is to develop ocean liners with Level 3 autonomous features, which the International Maritime Organisation defines as vessels controlled remotely with a minimum number of crew, with the ability to predict and diagnose obstacles. Coastal ships will be developed with the goal of achieving Level 2 autonomous features that include remote control with crew on board.

Industry experts estimate that the global market for self-navigating ships, including vessels, equipment and materials, will reach US$155 billion by 2025.

"Our goal is to take 50% of the related market's share by 2030, when self-driving ships are commercialised, said Kang Gyeong-seong, director-general for industrial policy at the Trade Ministry.

"After the project is completed in 2025, we will spare no effort to develop the technology needed for a completely autonomous ship with Level 4 features."

The autonomous ships will be designed to navigate with little or no human participation, with built-in AI that decides on the safest routes based on photographic scans of the ship's surroundings using on-board cameras.