Japanese manufacturers, shippers and researchers plan to launch an effort this year to bolster high-tech shipping systems — including self-navigation technology.
Nikkei Asian Review reports that participating companies hope that better technology will enable the industry to overcome price competition with rivals in other Asian nations.
The National Maritime Research Institute in Tokyo will lead the project, which could begin as soon as this summer.
Participants reportedly will include shipping companies Mitsui O.S.K. Lines and Nippon Yusen as well as shipbuilders Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Imabari Shipbuilding, Japan Marine United, Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding and Kawasaki Heavy Industries.
The companies hope that self-navigation systems, which determine optimal shipping routes by accounting for weather and shipping traffic, will reduce fuel consumption. The group also aims to improve energy efficiency and help compliance with forthcoming industry environmental regulations.
The initiative comes amid a sluggish shipping market worldwide, and the Japanese shipping sector was particularly hurt by lower prices from South Korean and Chinese companies.
The Japan Ship Exporters' Association, according to Nikkei, said that the 3.72 million gross tons of 2016 shipping orders were about one-sixth of the orders during an unusually strong 2015.