Singapore is banking on autonomous shipping, with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) investing $7.2 million in five projects on such vessels.
One of them - a collaboration between the MPA, ST Engineering, Japanese trading house Mitsui & Co and British ship certifying body Lloyd's Register - aims to develop navigational intelligence for ocean-going vessels.
ST Engineering will equip an ocean-going Singapore-flagged car carrier ship with "sophisticated perception and navigation modules", which will provide data that can be used to develop future autonomous shipping programmes.
Separately, a cross-agency steering committee set up by the MPA aims to make the Republic a future-ready port by preparing it to receive autonomous ships.
The committee will do this by creating a road map for autonomous operations in Singapore's ports, as well as building the technical capabilities needed to receive such vessels.
"Autonomous navigation has the potential to increase productivity and enhance navigational safety," said Mr Steen Lund, who chairs the Singapore Shipping Association's technical committee.
These efforts were announced yesterday at the opening of the MPA's Maritime Innovation Lab in conjunction with Singapore Maritime Week.
The lab - which is part of the MPA's Living Lab efforts - will act as a test bed for port operation projects in areas such as vessel traffic management, and will also house a data hub to support industry digitalisation efforts and data sharing.
Companies, research institutes and universities will also be able to make use of the lab's facilities to develop their own maritime capabilities, the authority added.
MPA chief executive Quah Ley Hoon said the new lab "will help take the maritime sector to a new level of development in areas such as automation, data analytics and intelligent systems".
The new $9.9 million Next Generation Vessel Traffic Management System Lab was also launched yesterday by ST Engineering and Kongsberg Norcontrol. Expected to be completed by 2021, it will develop technologies that can be used to analyse vessel routes and detect potential collision situations.
Separately, MPA also announced it is collaborating with ST Engineering and PSA Marine to develop a remote piloting system, which will allow vessels to be remotely guided from shore for safe berthing and movement to ports.
Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min said the Maritime Innovation Lab provides a conducive environment to develop the technology necessary for Singapore to keep ahead of the curve in the maritime sector, which he noted contributes 7 per cent of Singapore's gross domestic product.
"In order for Singapore to remain competitive in this area, I think we need to step up our game and look into how we can be innovative and harness the use of technology," he said, adding that the technology developed could eventually be employed in other sectors as well.