China reports entry into service of first autonomous container ship

Zhi Fei has entered commercial services after extensive trials as the first autonomous container ship (Bestway)

Posted on 25 April 2022 17:16 by

The Maritime Executive

Chinese authorities report that they have put the world’s first autonomous electric container ship into commercial service after a period of extensive testing. The vessel, which was developed through extensive collaboration with Chinese institutions, would be a demonstration vessel that will provide important learning for future technology development.

The ship, named Zhi-Fei (Chinese for Flying Wisdom) began its first scheduled trip on April 22. Zhi-Fei would be around 8,000 dwt with a capacity of 300 TEUs. The vessel is 384 feet long with a beam of 57 feet and a depth of approximately 32 feet. Propulsion would be provided by a DC electrical system which gives the supply vessel a top speed of approximately 12 knots and a normal operating speed of 8 knots. the Zhi-Fei was built by Qingdao shipyard.

The ship’s design was led by Bestway in cooperation with Shanghai Jiahao Ship Design Institute and Dalian Maritime University. The initial construction contract was signed at the end of 2019 with a start of work in May 2020. The vessel was launched in April 2021 with the first sea trials in June and tests on the systems started last September. The technical assessment was completed in March 2022 and the vessel now operates between Qingdao Port in Shandong Province and Dongjiakou operated by Navigation Brilliance (BRINAV).

Zhi Fei started business operations on April 22, 2022 (Bestway)

According to reports, the ship adopts a full-rotation electric propulsion system based on hybrid technology and integrates large-capacity batteries and generators through DC grid to achieve intelligent optimization of energy efficiency. The Chinese say this is the first time that a DC power system has been combined with intelligent operations.

The container ship is capable of operating in three different modes, crewed driving, remote driving and unmanned driving. Intelligent systems provide independent route planning, intelligent collision avoidance and remote control operations. The ship uses 5G, satellites and other multi-network systems.

The information developed from this project and the operation of the vessel contributes to efforts to build similar self-propelled container ships of greater capacity from 500 to 800 TEUs.

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