MOL project gives tugs bird’s eye view of operations

Malcolm Latarche

Malcolm Latarche · 14 October 2019


Japanese ship operator MOL has announced that it has teamed up with Oki Electric Industry to start a joint study on the use of Oki's new FlyingView bird's-eye view system to monitor a 360° field of view around a tugboat. In preparation for the study, the system was installed on the 2012-built tug Asaka Maru owned by Nihon Tug-Boat, and a preliminary experiment has been conducted.

The system comprises four fish-eye cameras mounted on mast of the tug, digital compositing system, and display.

Camera images are composed on the field-programmable gate array (FPGA), which has high-resolution image processing capabilities, to realise large-capacity, high-quality image processing in real time and in portable energy saving system, providing seamless, bird's-eye view image monitoring with virtually no blind spots in a wide area surrounding the tug. FPGA is an integrated circuit that the purchaser and designer can custom-configure after manufacturing and is a type of programable logistic device (PLD).

As a tug approaches a large vessel, only a small part of the vessel's hull can be seen from tug's bridge, and therefore, the tug relies on radio instructions from the pilot onboard the target vessel. The experiment was done in a situation with Oki's FlyingView allowing the tug’s master to be able to objectively grasp conditions around the tug in real time. The system can also instinctively grasp its distance from surrounding obstacles and other vessels, and this leads to reducing the risk of an accidental contact with the target vessel and more effectively assisting its safe berthing and unberthing.

MOL positions navigation support systems featuring image recognition, such as the AR Navigation System which is already in practical use, as part of its challenge project, called the "FOCUS EYE" series aimed at developing technologies that will contribute to company's world-leading level of safe operation. It focused on Oki's FlyingView system as a part of the series, with the goal of speeding up its initiatives on enhancing safe operation by advancing joint development of the system, including a study of ways to adopt it on large vessels.

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