Zhi Fei, China’s first autonomous ship, began service on 22 April, seven months after being piloted.
The 300TEU vessel, owned by Shandong Port Shipping Group, will transport cargoes between Qingdao’s main port and the latter’s sub-port, Dongjiakou.
Zhi Fei, built by Yangfan Group and designed by Navigation Brilliance Technology, has three navigation modes—manual navigation, remotely controlled navigation and unmanned autonomous navigation.
The vessel is equipped with a navigation assistance system to provide the captain with information about the environmental and collision risks.
Crew on the ship can also communicate with port officials and other shore-based personnel through 5G and satellite communications.
China started developing autonomous ships in March 2019, after the Ministry of Transport approved research and development into smart navigation. Autonomous shipping is gaining traction as a means to avoid accidents and circumvent the shortage of seafarers.