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Trimble Precise Positioning Charts a Course for Success


Mitsui E&S Shipbuilding is an engineering product manufacturing company based in Japan and focused on design and engineering for the marine and shipping industries. As a long-time Trimble customer, they utilize the Trimble BX992 GNSS receiver for highly precise position and heading information to navigate their large shipping vessels in and out of busy harbors during inclement weather.

With centimeter level accuracy, and continuous positioning in GNSS challenged areas, Trimble delivers position and orientation solutions allowing returning vessels to safely and autonomously navigate harbors in Japan, as well as other ports across Asia.

The seafaring labor market in Japan has been steadily shrinking over time, and new demand is emerging for a solution to a tight labor market for smaller vessels. Mitsui E&S Shipbuilding once again turned to Trimble for help with creating a safe, effective and sustainable solution to tackle this challenge.


Can Innovation and Technology Solve the Challenges of a Shrinking Labor Force?

In addition to their work with large freight vessels, Mitsui E&S Shipbuilding works with small passenger ships used to transport people on routes between the small remote islands in Japan. As an island nation, Japan relies on these smaller vessels to transport commuters, tourists and goods to and from smaller remote islands near the mainland. With its aging population, and a global shortage of seafarers Japan is currently facing a labor shortage of qualified seafarers to captain these smaller vessels. A recent study warns of a significant global seafarer shortage by 2026. To solve for these challenges, the Nippon Foundation has started the unmanned ship project, “MEGURI 2040” in 2020. It aims to realize practical fully autonomous ships by 2025. In this project, Mitsui E&S Shipbuilding looked to autonomous technology. By launching an autonomous vessel, without a captain, Mitsui E&S Shipbuilding could solve for the ongoing labor shortage challenge, and could be used both for passenger ships to transport people between the islands, as well as to reduce the workload of seafarers.


Precise Positioning – Rain or Shine, Gust or Gale

To accomplish this, Mitsui E&S Shipbuilding turned to Trimble to assist in the development of a berthing support system to autonomously navigate these smaller, fully autonomous vessels along a fixed route. Mitsui E&S Shipbuilding needed a partner with the technological expertise, superior customer service and consistent centimeter-level accuracy capabilities to get the job done. They turned to the precise positioning technology from the Trimble BX992 GNSS receiver, as well as real-time correction data from Trimble RTX®. Precise, real-time GNSS data gives these smaller vessels centimeter-level accuracy for positioning and heading information regardless of the weather conditions, and allows for a successful and safe autonomous navigation within the harbor.

The Trimble receiver consistently delivers accurate and high-precision location, ground speed and heading data, regardless of poor visibility or bad weather”

Koh Murata, manager of development, design, manufacturing for ship maneuvering control systems at Mitsui E&S Shipbuilding.


Reliable Positioning and Heading Information Creates Smooth Sailing for Japan’s Autonomous Vessels

In early 2020, Mitsui E&S Shipbuilding successfully launched the first phase of this initiative. With the Trimble BX992 GNSS receiver in place, a small passenger ship autonomously maintained its 1.3km route between a small outer island and the main island of Japan.

The Trimble receiver was installed in the wall-mount cabinet, and the antennas on the deck at the top of the deck house. They are easy to install, space saving and provide the precise positioning needed to autonomously maneuver the ship

As Mitsui E&S Shipbuilding moves into the second phase of the development of fully autonomous vessels, they are testing these vessels in harbors across Japan.

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