NYK to Conduct Test of New Lookout Support System for Vessels
– Aiming for safer operations through 24-hour recognition of targets in shared waterways –

Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha
MTI Co., Ltd.

Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK) and MTI Co., Ltd. (MTI) have installed on a trial basis on a ship operated by the NYK Group a prototype of the Automatic Ship Target Recognition System developed in Israel by Orca AI Ltd.* (Orca AI). Verification started from September 8th.

Current status of visual lookouts by seafarers

To avoid dangerous objects and collisions with other vessels while sailing, the navigator uses binoculars to visually recognize dangerous objects. Nautical instruments such as radar are also used, and decisions are then made to change course if necessary. The new system will be installed on a trial basis to verify whether the safety of the ship’s operation can be improved by automating the task of recognizing dangerous objects. This system apparently can automatically recognize dangerous targets and other vessels that may be overlooked by the human eye, especially at night and in congested waters.

Current status of ship automatic target recognition technology

Research on automatic identification by image analysis has been underway, and automatic recognition is possible if the image can be acquired. However, ships are exposed to wind and rain. In such an environment, there is no camera that has been able to shoot day and night, and no system that could measure the distance from the captured image to the target with a certain degree of accuracy.

Overview of new system

The new system uses a camera unit that can shoot day and night to automatically recognize ships and targets and measure the distance to them. Information obtained from navigational equipment, including vessel names, distance, and time when the ship is closest to the target, can be superimposed and displayed in an integrated manner to a tablet or touch-panel monitor display.

In addition, the system is epoch-making because it can independently recognize small fishing boats and small markers that are not captured by radar and not equipped with AIS. The system measures the distance to these targets and notifies the person on duty of danger of collision.

Surrounding images taken are analyzed using artificial intelligence (AI) on Orca AI’s server, which makes use of machine learning and then remotely updates the onboard software. This mechanism improves performance such as recognition rate through continuing use. In addition to the captured video, navigation instrument information is sent to Orca AI’s server and displayed together with the video data. This makes it possible to monitor the movement of the ship and check the situation from the land office.

Camera unit and tablet demonstration screen


Ships can be automatically identified during day or night, providing 24/7 coverage.

Overview of camera unit

・ Size: Height 18 cm, width 44 cm, length 35 cm
・ Weight: 12 kg
・ Angle of view: 120 degrees
・ Equipped with three cameras and three infrared cameras
・ Nighttime shooting is possible
・ Tablet or touch-panel display can be selected for the display

Details of verification

In this verification, the system has been installed on a trial basis on a ship operated by the NYK Group to verify detection capability and contribution to lookout work, improve the target detection algorithm through data collection and machine learning, and enhance the recognition rate.

In addition, in joint research conducted by NYK and MTI in advance with Orca AI, the system was installed on domestic vessels to collect information on the Japan coast, in addition to fishing boats, fishing gear, and buoys peculiar to Japan. We are also researching how to use the system for future autonomous operations by improving its recognition rate.

On February 3, NYK released the NYK Group ESG Story,** which aims to further integrate ESG into the company’s management strategy and promotes activities that contribute to the achievement of the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) through business activities. To strongly promote ESG management, NYK and MTI will encourage new value creation as a sustainable solution provider through a business strategy that includes the activities aimed at achieving safe operation by introducing the latest digital technology, such as verification of automatic ship target recognition systems.

Company Overviews

Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha
Head office: 2-3-2 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Establishment: September 1885
President: Hitoshi Nagasawa
Website: https://www.nyk.com/english/

MTI Co., Ltd.
Head office: 2-3-2 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Establishment: April 2004
President: Kazuo Ishizuka
Website: https://www.monohakobi.com/en/

* Orca AI Ltd.
Head office: Tel Aviv, Israel
Establishment: 2008
CEO: Yarden Gross
Website: https://www.orca-ai.io/

** NYK Group ESG Story
A guideline detailing concrete efforts to integrate ESG into management strategies of the NYK Group.
NYK Issues the NYK Group ESG Story

Related Links

Link to the news release of ORCA AI

News release on May 20, 2020: NYK and MTI Successfully Tests Remote Navigation of Tugboat

News release on May 14, 2020: Autonomous Ship Framework obtains AiP from ClassNK

News release on June 6, 2019: MTI joined One Sea, a maritime ecosystem aiming to realize autonomous ships, as the first member from Asia

News release on March 12, 2019: The NYK Group Develops System that Assists with Vessel Berthing